Smog's seventh full-length album, Knock Knock, proves to be singer/songwriter Bill Callahan's subtlest collection of songs yet. Indeed, one of the album's greatest accomplishments is its gently optimistic tone; if his other albums made a deadpan joke out of misery, on this album Callahan delivers the punch lines with traces of a grin. It's a moving album on many levels; not only do the songs have Smog's usual emotional intimacy, their subjects move away from difficult, claustrophobic situations toward maturity and acceptance. "Let's Move to the Country" and "I Could Drive Forever" are all about escape, whether it's from the rat race or bad relationships -- "I feel light and strong," Callahan sings on "I Could Drive Forever," summing up Knock Knock's lyrical tenor. But moving also implies distance. As the album travels the emotional spaces between people, Callahan himself seems more removed from these songs; more than ever, his songs read more like short stories than diary entries, particularly on "River Guard," about a warden watching prisoners swim, and the enigmatic "Sweet Treat." "Cold Blooded Old Times" and "Teenage Spaceship" capture the awkwardness of youth, while "Left Only With Love" accepts a lover's departure in stride. Musically, Knock Knock builds on Red Apple Falls's folky, flowing sound, but throws in twists like drum loops, electric guitars, and, surprisingly, a children's choir. "Hit the Ground Running" combines all three elements, driven by rolling guitars and accented with strings, with the children's choir urging Callahan on his way. "Held"'s drum, guitar, and feedback loops take a collage approach to a classic rock sound; along with "Cold Blooded Old Times" and "No Dancing," it's one of Callahan's most up-tempo songs since 1995's "Wild Love." Over time, Knock Knock reveals itself as one of Smog's finest moments.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares