Knox Fortune's 'Paradise' Speaks to the Melancholy of Summer Love
"Summer" music can have a one-dimensional connotation, bright, happy and…maybe that’s it? No, life is more complex! For every party jam experienced, there's a tear jerker. Sometimes, the lemonade puts a lump in your throat and sometimes you are blue at the beach. To me, Knox Fortune’s ‘Paradise’ is all about exploring this dichotomy of the summer album.
The name itself begs the question, is there such a thing as ‘Paradise’? Nostalgia means we wait much of the year to relive warm weather glory days. Living in memories is purgatorial, and short summers make for bittersweet what-ifs. Parallel to the good times, Knox Fortune reflects on what could be, what was or was not. The dueling notions of love and memory sneak in slivers of pain that make the beauty of ‘Paradise’ that much realer. When it comes to summer love, it’s easy to go crazy getting back to the good times. In search of ‘Paradise’.
And that's just where Knox goes. In "Torture" Knox alternates convincing himself to stay and go - "I'm waiting on you ou-ou-ou" and I'm wasted on you ou-ou-ou". In “Help Myself”, he’s twisted up trying to get back with a girl he wasn’t meant for in the first place. “We had grown up a couple years / Divided up over ideas / I saw her 'round once in a while / We're not the same / but I can't lie, no no” followed by “I can't help from going back, no / I can't help from going back, no”. The song ends with more longing. Even the best summer love has roadbumps. In "Lil Thing, Knox breathes out these words"And while I know that you mean well / Sometimes it feels I'm getting away from myself / It's the little things that / make me weep / The rainy days in Malibu / Staying late after school / Hanging up my calls with you / Even when I'm insecure / Holding close all over the nights / We were just 19, alive and new", as the beat ripples with emotive synths.
On “Star”, the word of the day is “could”, a more efficient ‘if only’ – “You could see the planet / but I guess it's not in your plans yet” and “There could be a problem / It could be so easy to solve it”. He concludes with “I'll always lose, my heart stops / Remind me if I'm alright". Wishing it were doesn't make it so. Even the hook of poppy “24 Hours”, "24 hours, open, I know / I know, I know / 4 in the mornin', are you alone?" could be read as a question to someone else or a question to yourself.
And the key to the puzzle might be the opening track, “No Dancing”, because of how it captures the comradery between joy and sadness so well. Torn up with sorrow and love, Knox Fortune walks the emotional tightrope as he chipmunk croons “I don’t feel like dancing / I’ve been flying low…/ laying in my bed til the evening / til the suns up I sleep in / I don't feel like moving / a toe or finger / if I can't see ya / why be sincere..with. you." A pause, and then he begins thinking to himself, "fire in the night / will I ever see you again? / or is our last dance our last dance / sometimes I wish I could see you again / but I know I know you don't". This sounds depressing, but there's a content optimism in Knox's voice. It doesn't need to work out, whatever moment they had was worth it. Capital P paradise may not exist, but you can find pieces of it in the smallest places.
The production in Paradise straddles a line between upbeat, loose and semi-muted. You don’t picture bright rays of light on most tracks; the summer vibe comes from Knox's sense of freedom. The honesty with which he churns out his tweak pop songs shines brighter than any sonic choice in particular, moving from loose jams to claustrophobic boogies but always keeping it light. The breezy, carefree "Help Myself" and the fuzzed out depression of "Strange Days ft. Kami. His rich production is some of the most forward thinking you’ll find, but the project vibrates with the sounds of yesterday. From 60’s pop rock sounds, to the crackling, warped tape feel that you've heard in Biggie's "Everyday Struggle" and Boards Of Canada 'Music Has The Right To Children.' Upbeat, but human.
Knox Fortune's 'Paradise' is realizes summer love's complexities, lost and found. It's not always the easiest, but that makes the beauty you do find that much sweeter. 'Paradise' doesn't run from this fact of life, but it embraces it. And in that honesty, he finds something better, realer than paradise.