Though bittersweet, the Knife’s decision earlier this year to call it quits after 15 years seemed like a sensible conclusion to a musical career that was quickly resembling a runaway mine car. After all, where else could Karin Andersson and Olof Dreijer take a project predicated on such reckless abandon? The only thing stunning about this bit of news was the tidiness of the announcement, or that the Knife bothered with any announcement at all.
Formed in 1999 by the Swedish siblings, the Knife released their underrated self-titled debut in 2001 and made their breakthrough two years later with Deep Cuts, an album of tawdry, neon-soaked excess that spawned their biggest hit, the joyous “Heartbeats.” Following the post-rave phantasmagoria of 2006’s acclaimed Silent Shout, the duo spent the next seven years largely absent from the music scene (with the exception of 2010’s Darwinian electro-opera Tomorrow, In a Year). They returned last year with Shaking the Habitual, which was either remarkably ahead of its time or antiquated in stone. Where else could they go from there except to honorably fall on their swords?
The Knife began their final round of shows last night in Stockholm, then follow that with five dates across Europe, culminating on November 8th in Reykjavik at Iceland Airwaves. To celebrate, we took a look back at the Knife’s catalogue to compile a list of their very best tracks.
15. “You Make Me Like Charity.” Offering a brief glimpse into the ghoulish hedonism that would characterize the Knife’s later output, “You Make Me Like Charity” devolves from cheeky electro-pop into seething vocoder-afflicted anxiety. The traumatized, repetitive mantra of its chorus continues to resonate long after the jubilant Eurodisco of Deep Cuts has concluded.
14. “I Just Had to Die.” Most of the Knife’s self-titled debut can be generously described as well-behaved in comparison to its unhinged offspring. With the understated “I Just Had to Die,” Andersson attains a level of vocal poignancy she would again exhibit years later on her mesmerizing Fever Ray album, shining a nostalgic shade of optimism on a song that chronicles both bittersweet memories and the foresight of our inevitable demise.
13. “Networking.” The Knife unleashes their own brand of conversion therapy with “Networking,” a menacing barrage of quivering beats and gruesome taunts, brutally pummeling the listener for almost seven minutes. These are the unbridled sounds of Andersson and Dreijer at their most thoroughly indoctrinating.
12. “The Captain.” The Knife takes full advantage of the hazy industrial soundscape that begins “The Captain,” baiting the listener into calm sanctuary after Silent Shout’s harrowing opener. Yet, halfway through, as Andersson’s vocals crawl out from beneath the drone like some spectral parade, we’re jolted from the warmth of our serene stupor into icy discombobulation. It’s the last time we’d be foolish enough to feel so comfortable.
11. “Stay Out Here.” Written in collaboration with Emily Roysdon and Light Asylum’s Shannon Funchess, the house-inspired “Stay Out Here” is a freakish, shape-shifting bullet train, threatening to short-circuit and burst into flames at any moment while never losing sight of its destination: the apocalyptic storm just over the horizon.