Shaking the Habitual

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Shaking the Habitual
Studio album by The Knife
Released 5 April 2013 (2013-04-05)
Recorded 2010–12; Stockholm and Berlin
Genre Electronic, techno, synthpop, experimental, IDM, drone, tech house, dark ambient
Length 96:20
Label Rabid
Producer The Knife
The Knife chronology
Tomorrow, In a Year
Shaking the Habitual
Singles from Shaking the Habitual
  1. "Full of Fire"
    Released: 28 January 2013 (2013-01-28)
  2. "A Tooth for an Eye"
    Released: 11 March 2013 (2013-03-11)
  3. "Raging Lung"
    Released: 2 September 2013 (2013-09-02)
  4. "Without You My Life Would Be Boring"
    Released: 20 May 2014 (2014-05-20)

Shaking the Habitual is the fourth and final studio album by Swedish electronic music duo The Knife, released on 5 April 2013 by Rabid Records. The album was announced on 12 December 2012, along with a teaser video posted on YouTube.[1] The track listing was officially revealed on 25 January 2013,[2] followed by the artwork two days later.[3] It was released as a double CD and triple LP,[2] and as a digital download.

"Full of Fire" was released as the album's lead single on 28 January 2013.[4] An accompanying short film was directed by Marit Östberg, who contributed a film to the 2009 Swedish feminist porn compilation Dirty Diaries.[5] The album's second single, "A Tooth for an Eye", was released on 11 March 2013,[6] for which a music video was directed by Roxy Farhat and Kakan Hermansson.[7] The duo embarked upon the Shaking the Habitual Tour in support of the album, starting in Bremen, Germany on 26 April 2013.[8]


The album was first announced on 18 April 2011 through a post on The Knife's website about the housing rights of Romani people in Rome, and was initially scheduled to be released in 2012.[9] Shaking the Habitual was recorded in Stockholm and Berlin from 2010 to 2012.[10]

In October 2012, Shannon Funchess of Brooklyn-based electronic music duo Light Asylum revealed in interviews with Dazed & Confused and music blog No Conclusion that she would contribute vocals to a track on the album, with lyrics written by visual artist Emily Roysdon.[11]

For the artwork of Shaking the Habitual, the duo commissioned Malmö-based illustrator Liv Strömquist to design a comic book titled "End Extreme Wealth" that turns the right wing's discourse against the poor on its head, depicting the 1% as a culturally-impoverished and vermin-like "other". "It came out of the idea, 'How do we use the area of the record cover in the best political way?'" Olof Dreijer said. "It's about bringing focus to extreme wealth rather than poverty being the problem of the world."[12]

Themes and influences[edit]

Shaking the Habitual takes its title from a Michel Foucault quote.[13] The album is inspired by the duo's readings in feminist and queer theory,[14] while discussing environmentalism and structuralism.[15] Olof attended a course in gender studies at Stockholm University and shared his reading list with Karin Dreijer Andersson.[16] On 9 April 2013, The Knife released a Marit Östberg-directed video titled "Shaking the Habitual - The Interview", explaining the process of making the album. They state, "What we do is political. That should be impossible to misunderstand."[17] They criticise the institution of the royal family and the nuclear family calling it "an institution that conserves inequality, injustice and exclusion", while advocating for living "in solidarity beyond nuclear families, nations and economical unions."[17] In an interview with Pitchfork Media, Karin suggested that "people would be happier sharing things and being much more of a collective rather than working from these neo-liberal ideas of just looking after yourself."[18]

The duo also criticise the "commercial homogenisation" of the music industry, saying it constitutes an "extremely hierarchical structure".[17] In an interview with The Guardian, Karin mentioned how music artists are "getting even more commercial because they are selling their music to advertisements and going on tours with big alcohol brands", and questioned "how music and art can continue to develop or challenge itself within these new, very commercial frames." She also spoke of authenticity and quoted philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler, who says, "We are always in drag".[16]

The video for "Full of Fire", among other things, questions a policy in Sweden that offers tax deductions for wealthy families who employ maids.[18] The line "I'm telling you stories, trust me" in the song "A Tooth for an Eye" is borrowed from Karin's favourite Jeanette Winterson book, The Passion (1987).[18] The interludes "Crake" and "Oryx" are named after characters in Margaret Atwood's 2003 dystopian novel Oryx and Crake.[15][19] "Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized" takes its title from an article written by Nina Björk for Swedish magazine Glänta.[20]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 85/100[21]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[22]
Robert Christgau A[23]
The Guardian 3/5 stars[15]
The Independent 4/5 stars[24]
NME 7/10[25]
Pitchfork Media 8.4/10[19]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[26]
Slant Magazine 3.5/5 stars[27]
Spin 9/10[28]
Uncut 9/10[29]

Shaking the Habitual received widespread critical acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 85, based on 43 reviews, which indicates "universal acclaim".[21] Robert Christgau of MSN Music praised the album as "an exciting, multivalent Dreijer sibling showcase".[23] Uncut‍ '​s Rob Young wrote that Karin "possesses one of the most distinctive Scandinavian voices since Björk", referring to the duo's songs as "genetic pop mutations, scampering out of control".[29] Laura Studarus of Under the Radar opined, "Perhaps more surprising than Shaking the Habitual‍ '​s strident political stance is how much of its running time is created via non-electronic instruments. The synths still slither across nearly every song, but mixed in is a wealth of less obvious sound sources".[30] Lindsay Zoladz of Pitchfork Media hailed Shaking the Habitual as the duo's "most political, ambitious, accomplished album, but in a strange way it also feels like its most personal".[19] Philip Sherburne of Spin stated that The Knife have "never sounded more in tune with the materiality of sound or the sonorousness of the physical world."[28] Allmusic's Heather Phares noted that "Shaking the Habitual isn't as cohesive or accessible as Silent Shout, and after experiencing the whole thing, fans may not return to it often, but it's hard to deny that it's an often stunning work of art", dubbing the album "a testament to the Knife's skill that they make such formidable sounds so compelling for so long".[22]

The Independent critic Simon Price described the album as "long [...], strange, disturbing, uncomfortable, challenging. But it never fails to fascinate."[24] Louis Pattison of the NME expressed, "Sporadically brilliant, perhaps it is The Knife's Inland Empire—a fearless piece of work with its own logic, one that shears away all safety nets. Invention, stark and undiluted."[25] Anna Wilson of Clash concluded, "Increasingly aggressive and overtly detuned, [Karin and Olof's] individual styles have collided to create something elemental, immense and unsettling. Self-possessed and uncompromising, this is a record with regal bearing."[31] Rolling Stone‍ '​s Jon Dolan wrote that, compared to Silent Shout, Shaking the Habitual "explores even wilder styles of mordantly nutso android bleat".[26] Eric Henderson of Slant Magazine viewed that most of the album "consign[s] anything remotely hooky into the realm of affectation", and the lyrics are "delivered by some of Karin's most obtuse vocal performances to date, her sinewy androgynous pipes muscling through slide-whistle octaves fearlessly and tunelessly."[27] Hayden Woolley of Drowned in Sound found the album "unnavigable and unknowable, almost impossible to write about and even harder to listen to."[32] The Guardian‍ '​s Alexis Petridis felt that "Shaking the Habitual‍ '​s problem is that the Knife seem to have dismissed the idea of making your point concisely as merely another affectation of a decadent and corrupt society", describing the album as "alternately utterly gripping and unbearably boring; incredibly bold and strangely flaccid, viscerally thrilling and hopelessly over-thought."[15]

In October 2013, Shaking The Habitual was included at number 27 on Beats Per Minute's top 130 albums from 2008-2013.[33] In March 2014, Shaking the Habitual won the Nordic Music Prize.[34]

Pitchfork placed the album at number 14 on The Top 50 Albums of 2013,[35] and Full Of Fire at number 19 on The Top 100 Tracks of 2013.[36] In addition, they placed both the album and the track at numbers 62 [37] and 78 [38] on their Best of the Decade So Far lists.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by The Knife, except where noted. 

Disc one
No. Title Length
1. "A Tooth for an Eye"   6:04
2. "Full of Fire"   9:17
3. "A Cherry on Top"   8:43
4. "Without You My Life Would Be Boring"   5:14
5. "Wrap Your Arms Around Me"   4:36
6. "Crake"   0:55
7. "Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized"   19:02
Disc two
No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Raging Lung"       9:58
2. "Networking"       6:42
3. "Oryx"       0:37
4. "Stay Out Here" (Shannon Funchess, Emily Roysdon and The Knife) Roysdon Funchess, Roysdon, The Knife 10:42
5. "Fracking Fluid Injection"       9:54
6. "Ready to Lose"       4:36

A single CD version which omits "Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized" (included as a download bonus track) is also available in several countries.[40]


Credits for Shaking the Habitual adapted from liner notes.[10]

  • The Knife – engineering, performers, production, mixing
  • Johannes Berglund – mixing
  • D.E.F. – management
  • Martin Falck – artwork
  • Shannon Funchess – vocals ("Stay Out Here")
  • Mikael Häggström – maracas ("Wrap Your Arms Around Me")
  • Mandy Parnell – mastering
  • Liv Strömquist – comic, typeface Liv Fraktura
  • Studio SM – artwork


Chart (2013) Peak
Australian Albums Chart[41] 50
Austrian Albums Chart[42] 70
Belgian Albums Chart (Flanders)[43] 16
Belgian Albums Chart (Wallonia)[44] 75
Danish Albums Chart[45] 13
Dutch Albums Chart[46] 67
Finnish Albums Chart[47] 26
French Albums Chart[48] 193
German Albums Chart[49] 67
Irish Albums Chart[50] 30
Irish Independent Albums Chart[51] 3
Norwegian Albums Chart[52] 22
Scottish Albums Chart[53] 30
Swedish Albums Chart[54] 8
Swiss Albums Chart[55] 77
UK Albums Chart[56] 31
US Billboard 200[57] 52
US Dance/Electronic Albums[58] 2
US Independent Albums[59] 9

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format(s)
Australia[60] 5 April 2013 Pod 2 CD, 3 LP + 2 CD, digital download
Germany[61] Cooperative Music CD, 2 CD, digital download
Sweden[62] Rabid Records
United Kingdom[63] 7 April 2013 Brille Records Digital download
8 April 2013 CD, 2 CD
United States[64] 9 April 2013 Mute Records CD, 2 CD, 3 LP, digital download
Germany[65] 12 April 2013 Cooperative Music 3 LP + 2 CD
Sweden[66] Rabid Records
United Kingdom[67] 15 April 2013 Brille Records


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