Over the past few months, Stray Kids’ experimentation with electronic influences has transformed their music into a vital, trend-setting part of the K-pop landscape. It’s easy to forget that, at their heart, the group thrives on a more straightforward hip-hop style, anchored by their trio of composers/producers 3RACHA. Personally, I prefer when Stray Kids pull from a more diverse sonic palette, but I suppose a pre-release track is as good an opportunity as any to head back to their roots. Double Knot emerges over a month before the release of the group’s next album — the first of two digital singles to precede it. Its title echoes an old 3RACHA song, but the track is a new composition.
This is an odd one to review. On one hand, its lowered ambition pales in comparison to both Miroh and Side Effects. Yet at the same time, I’m willing to extend it a certain level of grace based on the incredible strength of those two singles. At its core, Double Knot is a typical boy group banger, borrowing the kind of hulking, noisy production favored by acts like Monsta X. It even incorporates heavy doses of stylistic autotune, as if intent on pushing every musical nerve I’ve got.
But here’s where that grace comes in. Double Knot benefits from a familiarity with Stray Kids’ previous work. Its structure carries a lot of their trademark quirks, from the breakneck swirl of combative energy during the pre-choruses to the abrasive distortion in the underlying synth loops. The track is also catchier than most comebacks of this style, continually circling back to a descending vocal hook that mirrors the lumbering instrumental. There’s very little melody to be found, but the rap verses are arranged in a repetitive manner — much closer to pop than hip-hop. In the end, there aren’t enough unique or standout moments to rank Double Knot as anything more than a boisterous aside, but I imagine (and hope) that Stray Kids are saving their biggest and best for the upcoming album.