Albums of the Decade: The Knife's Silent Shout 

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But the band’s choices for visuals were illuminating, in spite of the distancing efforts. The Knife’s visual identity was largely the work of longtime collaborator Andreas Nilsson, who channeled some of their key influences to stunning effect. The title track’s video is a putty-faced approximation of Charles Burns’ 90s-and-00s-spanning graphic novel masterwork, Black Hole. In the comic, teen angst manifests itself as a sexually transmitted disease, the sufferers grotesquely warping to reflect inner lust-fueled guilt. In their heavily art-directed stage show, the performers are obscured by a sinister flurry of disquieting imagery bringing to mind David Lynch at his most surreally expressionistic. That both artists are best known for illuminating the dark heart of the American Pacific Northwest’s tree-dominated suburbia, is no real coincidence. 

Swedish pop music has been omnipresent for decades, but the prevailing iconography of it has primarily been impossibly blond hit-makers in sequined suits. (Black metal was always too extreme and cartoonish to read as anything more than a fringe representation.) The persistent gloom of the local weather, and the proximity to the dark, mysterious heart of the forest gives rural Sweden more in common with the Pacific Northwest than one might instantly assume.  Silent Shout’s most paranoid, frantic track, “Forest Families,” neatly sums up the dynamic in its opening lines, “too far away from the city/ some kids left on their own.” 

The Knife presented a much darker, more depressive shade of Perfect Cheekbones Land in a way that seemed counterintuitive and exotic at the time, but has since started to gain further traction with popular art like the elegantly bleak 2008 vampire flick, Let the Right One In, and even Karin’s own Fever Ray solo project. But the combination of pristine soundcraft and a calculated aesthetic refusal to be reduced to a solitary account from any one point of view (or even a single gender), guarantees that Silent Shout will be the version of dark Scandinavia that resonates most deeply in the coming years. It's also pretty darn danceable. If only every band’s ethical compromise could produce such a majestic result.

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