In a time when almost everything feels uncertain, the music of Chicago indie pop artist Knox Fortune breaks through the haze and cuts straight to the feeling. His incredibly fun sophomore LP Stock Child Wonder lives up to the name, a bright and warm wave of eccentric pop music that is overflowing with youthful bliss.
Listeners may recognize Fortune from his Grammy-winning feature on “All Night” from Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book, or from his collaborative work with rappers such as Joey Purp and Vic Mensa. Fortune’s sound is mainly characterized by a commitment to bright, electronic instrumentals and his charmingly amateurish vocals, which have an almost genderless quality to them. Above all else, his music feels young, reflecting positivity back at anything and everything that comes his way. Stock Child Wonder hones in on this quality, an expansive, euphoric collection of songs that dial up the exuberance to a 10 out of 10.
Throughout Stock Child Wonder, quirky combinations elevate Fortune’s simple pop melodies to their fullest potential. Fortune’s vocal delivery on the starry-eyed track “Gemini” is so fascinatingly juvenile and pure of heart that it’s entrancing, shattering all reservations about the song’s pairing of flashy disco strings with bongo drums. Elsewhere, the fluttering “Static” playfully flirts with R&B and trap. In the hook, some incredibly joyful ad-libbing of “let’s run it, run it, run it” gleefully ushers in a burgeoning horn section that builds upon rising tension before diverting into a lighthearted, colorful breakdown of keys.
The album wears its naivete like a shield as it navigates the experience of youth. Songs such as “Just Enough” and “Compromise” channel simple feelings into evocative, feel-good jams; the former builds upon warm chords and a repeated mantra of validation, the latter using a friendly array of guitars and a multitracked chorus to highlight the value of companionship. The driving pop energy of “Hideout” fully transports listeners into the headspace of childhood as Fortune croons, “We used to hideout/ In the back of our house/ Lay in the garden/ And cover our mouths.”
Even the album’s breakup songs are delivered with an undeniably uplifting edge. “Come Over” radiates optimism in the face of heartbreak. Fortune’s answers to his problems are wondrously innocent and equally disarming; when he sings that coming over will make everything better, it sounds so sincere that you’re inclined to believe him. The infectious bounce of “Sincerity,” a song about regrets toward a past love, transforms Fortune’s pining and yearning into one of the album’s most addictive tracks.
The downtempo moments on Stock Child Wonder — where the production’s phaserlike euphoria subsides — are also its most striking. Album highlight “Shirtless” showcases Fortune’s songwriting skills front and center, conjuring vivid images of summer. Fortune sings, “Yeah my skins stuck to the leather/ Of the seats inside your Volvo/ It was purple like an orchid/ It’s so hot I took my shirt off” over a friendly, nostalgic acoustic guitar and a warm string section that feel apt alongside a smoldering campfire. Closer “Always” is perhaps the most uplifting track on the album, built off a simple yet charming arrangement of piano chords that beautifully crescendo. It best reveals that underneath all the quirks, Fortune’s authentic sentiments — no matter how plain — continue to surprise, like discovering these feelings for the first time. The album’s closing line is one of its most memorable: “I know I’ll always love you.”
That’s the thing about Stock Child Wonder. While Fortune mostly stays in his lane, smart production choices and an abundance of heart bring the most out of an otherwise plain and simple pop album, one of the most likeable and fun of the year, at that. There’s a potent sense of childlike excitement that lingers across the album; that it feels endless in its optimism truly is a wonder.