31Knots makes me feel like a horrible music writer. I have no clue how to classify these guys. Not one. I have no idea how to describe what they do. Is a band "progressive" if they manipulate the boundaries of music as we know it? If so, 31Knots is "prog." Is a band "math rock" if they bust out intricate compositions and weirdo time signatures? If so, 31Knots is math rock. Going further, is a band "pop" if they write catchy songs? Better sit down for this one, because if that's the case, 31Knots is a "pop band."
Of course, that's all bullshit. Classifying 31Knots as any of those things alone would be conformism and laziness. There are no easy, two-bit classifications for this band. The Days and Nights of Everything Anywhere—which 31Knots released on Polyvinyl Records on March 6—only proves it. Fully dissecting this record would take at least twice this space, a classically trained ear, some Ritalin, and probably a certified surgeon.
The album opens with the computer-enhanced "Beauty," which stews a mena-cing piano with Joe Haege's lyrical bombast, and it closes with "Walk with Caution," an atmospheric warning, crawling at the pace of a hard drive church bell. The songs are bookends. Between them sits an Encyclopaedia Britannica of sounds and layers. "Savage Boutique," the album's third track, tangles a parade-worthy marching band cadence, a scale tickling, 18th century piano, and the horn section from a mariachi band at a backyard Mexican birthday party.
Throughout The Days, Haege's voice is the lone constant. He owns these songs, and glides over them with a swagger not usually found in the world of brainy music. In "Pulse of a Decimal," a herky-jerky, start-and-stop piano ballad, Haege sings, "To see the world in black and white/Is nothing more than suicide." Appropriate. Haege obviously sees a full spectrum of colors. The Days is the clearest example of this to date.
"It's definitely the closest to satisfaction we've had with any album," said Haege by phone from a 31Knots' tour stop in Illinois. "We moved beyond just making a rock record. This record encompasses more of what we like in music. I think we tried to do things that were a little more exciting to us. There are so many times I've wondered what the hell I'm doing with my life, but to have people not be able to sum up your band, and what you do, makes you feel like you're doing something unique."
31Knots knows that The Days is a record with no contemporaries. There's no "sounds like" statement to declare, because by no mistake 31Knots sounds like no one. It makes my job harder, but it makes listening to The Days all the more worthwhile. As it turns out, when 31Knots does things they find more exciting, the end result is more exciting for all of us.