It’s always the last day of summer—at least in Knox Fortune’s heart. On Friday, the Chicago artist and producer will release his solo debut, Paradise,a sunrise-to-sunset cataloging of the final days of summer.
The project arrives after years of producing and shaping the Chicago music landscape. His vocals on Chance The Rapper’s “All Night” complete the track’s rowdy and playful feel. His production for KAMI’s Just Like The Moviesrevives new wave in a neon flash of glory. Self-described as a “warehouse,” Knox Fortune is deploying all of his music sensibilities across Paradise, leaving us with an album that’s been lightly dipped in nostalgia and almost-perfectly transcends a simple study of mood.
Paradise opens with the introvert’s song of the summer: “No Dancing.” A dance song where Knox “don’t feel like dancing,” the song’s subversion sets the stage for the rest the album. After years of producing for Chicago’s finest, Fortune is conscious of listener expectations and is more than ready to shatter them. This is the sunrise of the album, with its frenetic rhythm and broad synths. “No Dancing” begins to paint the album orange, and sets the stage for a record that moves in the same way fall draws in after the August heat.
The album is careful not to meander as it moves through the day. While Knox’s sometimes searching, sometimes ethereal, sometimes industrial voice is the bow that holds the album together, the project moves through sonic phases reminiscent of Knox’s swath of influences. “Help Myself” is the last remnant of that early morning yawn-stretch. The midday features funk undertones (“24 Hours”) that immediately give way to pop-rock riffs (“I Don’t Wanna Talk About It”). The evening is framed up by a succinct acoustic serenade (“Keep You Close”). Paradise’s final track, “Spill,” glitters and putters off as if it were the final notes of a dream sequence, wherein the dream is summer and we’ve all just learned to let go.
You can also hear how the record has been shaped around longing, with Knox’s astral vocals sounding less human the more he gives in to his nostalgic tendencies. There are times where his words are lost in favor of the frequency with which Fortune has me tuned into. That’s not to say the album is an avant-garde experiment. Looking to the pomp of “24 Hours,” it’s clear that Fortune is constantly influenced by his friends. Knox’s assured delivery when he declares that he’s the man should satisfy the hip-hop fan who crave a little braggadocio. Not to mention, the syncopated “I am, I am” makes this song prime for shimming and singing along.
Questionable moments on the album are limited. “Stars” picks up where “Help Myself” left off, and while I can appreciate such a fluid and satisfying transition, there’s little reason for “Help Myself” to have an epilogue. On its own, “Stars” is the brand of timid love song that I seek out, but in the larger scope of the record, it stagnates the project—until the celestial instrumentals kick in. The final minute of this track could have easily been its own lush interlude, linking the start of the album to the final moments on “Spill.”
That’s the catch with Knox Fortune: if he loses you one moment, the next he’ll grab your ears with something otherworldly.
As for the features, when Knox revealed to DJBooth that tracks with KAMI and Joey were cuts that couldn’t find a home on other projects, I was skeptical. After listening to the album for the past several weeks, I’m happy to admit that my worries were unfounded. KAMI’s range is a natural extension of the pitched vocal work Knox has been laying down, and Joey brings a velvety flow to the languid beat and builds momentum for the final breaths of the album. The fact that these two unplanned features work so well in the scheme of the album is both a testament to Knox’s chemistry with his friends and a showcase of how well he understands his sound.
Paradise works as an introduction for an artist you’ve already been introduced to, expanding upon the brilliant gems he’s been sneaking into his friend’s music for years. I won’t tell you that Knox Fortune invented a new genre because that’s beside the point. What I will tell you is that Knox Fortune made something only he could make. No track on this album could be mistaken for another artist’s handiwork.
The goal of the debut album: to distill your musical identity. In that sense, Paradise might be perfect.
3 Standout Tracks
"Lil Thing" was the single for a reason. It establishes the album’s setting and captures the essence of Knox Fortune as a musical mad scientist. There’s no sound he won’t try, no vocal effect he’ll shy away from, and no dream that’s too dreamy. And there’s love, and a good dose of love never hurt anyone.
This song has a tight groove and is the perfect way to brag about yourself when your voice is as delicate and tender as Knox’s. It’s got the most traditional production on the record, which only highlights Knox’s pen and his vocal chops.
Knox Fortune’s sultry and nostalgic peak, "Torture" has bright flourishes to distract from the morose themes. The writing is painfully simple—pain in that Knox is trapped in the center of his own hurt. This might be the easiest song to get lost in off Paradise.