by Joseph Purcell
On his fifth studio album, Chicago’s Daniel Knox has returned with an intricate record of parables and characters – be prepared to be dragged into the vast tapestries of Knox’s imagination
The idea of visual accompaniments to albums has become an increasing trend in recent times. Films and short animations that help to embellish the musical product put out by artists have proved popular. Despite this, I have often felt this is an admission that the true story that they may have wanted to tell was beyond their grasp, and that they didn’t quite have the lyrical or musical capability to convey their message.
Daniel Knox does not require this variation of mediums – despite his initial break coming as a result of a composition that he performed for David Lynch when working as a cinema projectionist. He doesn’t rely on the visual aids to transport the listener into his musical universe. His gift is one that means his story arrives just by listening to his work. Packed full of intricate characters and vivid storylines, brought to reality by his soothing yet fractured velvet vocal, Knox is an auteur. And his film noir soundtrack comes to life, as he drags you, line by line, into his world – one that he builds and orchestrates with each passing word, leaving you invested and embroiled in his abounding creativity. And as the final track of his finest record to date concludes, you feel a loss, similar to the last moments of your favourite movie or novella, and you are compelled to return back to the beginning and start all over again.
From the show tune howls of opener, King of the Ball, the new record finds Knox in exceptional form – contemptuously espousing his desires, ‘I want to kill everyone close to me, I want to wreck everything then say its mine, that will be fine.’ And as it unfolds, each track, a winding dreamscape of intrigue cast against an equally uplifting and haunting piano sound, all the tracks end up feeling like both their own entities, yet, somehow, as they are merely part of a bigger composite.
This is none more evident than on the bleeding drone of closer, No Horizon – Knox’s voice cuts through the dense fog – ‘your body will betray you; somebody will betray you.’ It is unsettling and comforting in equal parts – his vocal acting as beacon guiding you through this quite majestic piece of music.
The cinematic wanderings of singles, Fall Apart and Fool in the Heart, are instantly relatable. On Fall Apart, Knox is cast as the central character of a relationship deteriorating to the point of no return as he ruefully murmurs, ‘look at it all fall apart, oh no, watching it all fall apart,’ set to the solemn piano at his back.
Yet it is the delicate graceful caress of Fool in the Heart that steals the show. Knox’s serene tinklings float around his signature baritone – think Rufus Wainwright meets John Grant – sharing centre stage as he details a caustic hopelessness of pity and grief. The protagonist in crisis, yet, ignored by the constant pace of the incessant world around them.
Won’t You Take Me With You is a remarkable achievement from a uniquely talented artist. From despair to redemption, the record twists and turns through the full spectrum of emotions – each track narrated though an internal monologue. Painfully intimate, Daniel Knox has given us the first truly special record of the year.
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