The Best and Worst Things About the New Knife Album (Which We Admittedly Haven't Heard Yet)
- Words: Marke B
Apart from those readers who have been in comas over the past month or so, we're guessing that most of the XLR8R faithful are well aware that The Knife will soon be releasing a new album, Shaking the Habitual, via Mute. The long-awaited follow-up to 2006's Silent Shout, the duo's new full-length won't actually be released until April 9, but it's already been at the center of a veritable media firestorm; for the past six weeks, the Pitchforks of the world have been leading a TMZ-style coverage overkill, while fans and journalists (ourselves included) have anxiously devoured every piece of Knife-related information that's come down the pipeline. At this point, we've only heard the first single, "Full of Fire," yet it's hard to shake the notion that we already know the album on an intimate level. Perhaps that's why we felt comfortable putting together a list of the best and worst things about the LP; given the music world's collective frenzy over the forthcoming record, actually hearing the music almost feels secondary.
BEST: The Knife has a new album coming out. Hooray.
Shaking the Habitual will be The Knife's first official new album since 2006. Folks are going apeshit. Yes, sister-brother duo Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer have since pursued successful solo projects (he as darkly catchy technoist Oni Ayhun, she as alien spellbinder Fever Ray) and one collaborative eye-roller (see below), but fans have been rabid for the return of the idiosyncratic, eerily poppy Knife for many internet moons.
WORST: Jose Gonzalez probably won't cover any Shaking the Habitual tracks, but Nicki Minaj might.
Gonzalez's version of "Heartbeats" from Deep Cuts brought both the Swedish-Argentinian singer and The Knife to global attention. But now that dark, pulsing, avant-garde beats are the pop-rap norm, we're afraid Nicki will cannily update trap with a goth spin and snatch one of the tracks for herself. One the plus side, the thought of The Knife banging from a tinted-window sideshow sounds just about right.
BEST: Shaking the Habitual is not an impenetrable, 92-minute opera about Charles Darwin (or something).
This is electronic music, where we celebrate ambition and difficulty—downright pretension, even. Sure, The Knife deserves major plaudits for going gargantuan in tribute to Origin of the Species with 2010's Tomorrow, In a Year collab with Planningtorock and Mt. Sims. (We're not kidding, that really happened.) However... we're incredibly glad the group did not elect to repeat itself and stab our ears out with more modulated bird noises and incessant noodling.
WORST: The word "epic" will be thrown around a lot.
Shaking the Habitual may not be a 92-minute, impenetrable opera about Charles Darwin or something, but it is 98 minutes long, with 12 tracks ranging in length from 37 seconds to almost 20 minutes. And already the "e" word is popping up in lazy blog post headlines everywhere. There is no escaping it. Everything longer than an animated GIF is epic on the internet. This album is EPIC.
BEST: All that wonderful Knife weirdness appears to be intact.
Freaks rejoice. There are references in the tracklist to Margaret Atwood's dystopian 2003 novel Oryx and Crake, a decided scrambling of sexual and political identity in the lyrics of first leaked track "Full of Fire," some comfortably creepy shenanigans in director Marit Östberg's 10-minute video for the track, not to mention another gender-ambiguous album teaser video. In short, all signs point to a nice but boundary-pushing return to the siblings' beloved eccentricity.
WORST: The Knife started everything!
From witch house and seapunk to hashtag rap and Tumblr pop, it's a virtual certainty that disparate musical subcultures will soon start claiming The Knife as mother and father to it all. It would not surprise us to find Frank Ocean claiming them as an influence, right before Deadmau5 disses them for the lulz.
BEST: A world tour will surely follow.
It's onstage that Karin and Olof truly distinguished themselves from the other progenitors of leftfield electronic sounds, with techno-horror projections, Gaga-foreseeing outfits, quirky-nightmare sets, and lots and lots of fog. A handful of European dates have already been announced.
WORST: That world tour is probably already sold out.
Even before any of the dates are announced, or even planned, the slobbery-fan vultures of Ticketmaster are poised in some queue already, their sweaty palms gripping their mice, anxiously awaiting the first stirrings of any ticket release. You are going to have to pry those golden tickets from the cold, dead hands of some middle-aged electronica fan before you see one glimpse of Karin's prosthetically melted face. Sorry. :(
BEST: Your edgier gay friends will be bumping this madly.
The jittery electro and avant-goth vibes of Silent Shout and Fever Ray cannily appealed to a large swath of gay men in the later '00s who wished to appear sophisticated while reconnecting with their Depeche Mode electro-pop roots and jerky dance moves. That guy with the expensive second-hand jeans upstairs, your local dive bartender—hell, even your own boyfriend—will ensure you'll never have to buy this album to hear it on repeat.
WORST: Your edgier gay friends will be bumping this madly.
You may end up begging them to put some Little Dragon back on for relief.
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