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Album Review: To The Rhythm by Knola

American alt emo act Knola have released their debut album To The Rhythm via Skeletal Lightning Records.  Knola have the pedigree to be something special, formed from the embers of the (if oft-overlooked) careers of emo’s second string — The Exploration, Midwest Pen Pals — and hard-edged cult classics XERXES and WIlliam Bonney.

It’s a strange album. It’s hard to dislike and hard to fully on board with. For every one part that thrills and excites there’s two that frustrate. You’ll be able to recognise the talent which sits just below the surface underneath a sheen of imperfection and discordance.

To The Rhythm isn’t just your run of the mill emo-revival album either. There’s a hint of early 90s rock there, at numerous points you’d be forgiven for thinking of a version of Sonic Youth blended with American Football and a generous helping of Death Cab For Cutie. There are moments that you think Knola might become your new favourite band, and then they go and fuck it up with a sloppy unremarkable track.

In songs like ‘Weight’ and ‘Ruby Beach’ Knola are genuinely excellent. Both are excellent slices of indie-emo similar in feeling to Prawn, but with more of an exhilarating energy. They end up sounding like the infectious and relatable emo that many of their contemporaries strive for. You also have the special ‘Earth Noise’ that revels in being instrumental. It’s big and expansive with more than a hint of post rock to it; it’s refined while being ambitious. ‘Winter Sun’ flies close to being the best track on the album, commanding and confident it throws big post-hardcore hooks against an emo lament crashing to together excellently.

Unfortunately you have the rest of the album which, if you’re being kind, just sounds like decent emo songs covered badly. ‘Cottage Grove’ and ‘Fabric’ are enough to turn you against To The Rhythm. There’s a good emo sound somewhere there, it’s just buried way beneath the sloppy sounding guitars and awful vocal. It’d be too harsh to say that they’re terrible songs; they’re just ruined by what seems like a lack of effort.

It’s a Jekyll and Hyde album. At points it excels yet it’s let down by the unremarkable and bad. You can forgive a couple of duds on other albums; unfortunately here the duds outweigh the gems.

AD Rating 5/10

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