While 2011’s Everything Is Saved was an enjoyable enough record, it tended to play it safe. The lead single from that album, “Boy With A Broken Heart,” while as effusive a pop song as you were likely to find that year, did little to distinguish itself from some of the other fare that was been offered up, and swallowed up, by the masses (see Mumford and Sons, The Avett Brothers, etc..). That’s not to say the Saved was a bad or even insignificant record. It’s blending of traditional folk with the sounds of rural Mexico that front man David Wax has spent much of his life studying was a refreshing alternative to some of the less ambitious efforts of the groups peers, but on the whole it was exactly the kind of record that you would expect a band like David Wax Museum to make.
Perhaps the biggest surprise then on Knock Knock Get Up is that not only is it a huge leap forward for David Wax and crew, but there are moments scattered about its ten tracks that suggest this is a band that has totally reinvented itself. It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what they’ve done right here – besides everything – but throwing out terms like “mature,” “confident” and “realized potential” are a pretty good start.
Opening track “Will You Be Sleeping?” kicks of the album with a bleat of horns referencing the mexi-folk roots of the groups previous works, but that quickly gives way to an “Over The Rainbow” worthy guitar vamp – which then gives way to an organ line replete with clanging bells that recall Darlene Love’s Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) more than it does Mariachi. It’s a marvelous balancing of everything that has influenced the group to this point, and establishes the fearlessly adventurous tone present on the majority of the albums forty minute runtime.
Tracks “Refuge” and “Harder Before It Gets Easier” tend to pull a little heaver from Wax’s old bag of tricks, but it’s an easily forgivable backslide. They’re still great songs when you consider the anthemic, slow burner worthy of the Arcade Fire that is “A Dog In This Fight”, or the playful Paul Simon-esque storytelling of “Leopard Girl,” the difference between now and then is thrown into sharp relief.
But it’s on “The Rumors Are True” where everything that David Wax Museum could, and arguably should, strive to be gels and presents the highlight of the album. Mixing Mexican horns, with plunking xylophones, and an almost indie swagger, “Rumors”may be one of most endearing “indie-pop” gems you are likely to hear this year. On an album that is full of moments like this though, it’s merely icing on the impossibly sweet tres leches.
There is no denying that David Wax Museum puts on one of the best live shows that you’re likely to see these days, but a great live show does not necessarily a great album make. With Knock Knock Get Up Wax and crew have outdone themselves in every way possible, finding not only their balance, but their path forward as a group of truly remarkable musicians. They have chased down the holy grail of music and gulped mightily from it; molding the remarkable, fluid, life affirming energy of their live show into a more permanent state and that fact alone makes Knock Knock Get Up worth your attention - never mind the fact that it is simply one of the best records you are likely to hear this year.