Daniel Knox writes torch songs to burn down the house on Chasescene | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Daniel Knox writes torch songs to burn down the house on Chasescene


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Chicago singer-songwriter Daniel Knox knows how to write a heartbreaker—which in his case could actually mean a protagonist who digs into a lover’s chest cavity to pinch off an artery. The title track from his new album, Chasescene (H.P. Johnson Presents), kicks off with an uneasy sentiment: “Darling, I love you by the neck / In this hopeless broken wreck / I love you by the neck.” Which is promptly followed by an even darker declaration: “I love you in the ground / You’re naked and you can’t make a sound / I love you in the ground.” The icing on Knox’s cake of creepiness is his vocal delivery: he sounds like Tom Waits after adenoid surgery, with bursts of chesty volume and a bit of gravel left over, and his trills and flourishes recall the dramatic phrasing of Judy Garland (if she sang in Johnny Hartman’s range). Chasescene is the last installment in a trilogy of releases that includes 2007’s Disaster and 2011’s Evryman for Himself. Each album explores desperate, sometimes deviant relationships, and the orchestrations on Chasescene give the songs an over-the-top cinematic flavor. On two tracks, Knox hands the microphone to equally dramatic guest vocalists: “Capitol” features dark and sometimes whispered lines by British singer Jarvis Cocker, and “The Poisoner” showcases a bright-toned yet mournful lead by Nina Nastasia. This winter Knox toured to support Chasescene in Europe, where he has a robust following, and tonight’s show is his local record release. He’ll play an extended set with local collaborators Paul Parts, Joshua Fitzgerald Klocek, and Jim Cooper, and he’ll have plenty of vinyl for sale, including Chasescene and his latest seven-inch, “Die Hard/Die Harder.”   v

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