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The Invisible Way
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Low have partaken in a long journey since the narcotic rock of their debut 1994s "I could live in hope" but its been one where the direction of travel for their musical trajectory has consistently pointed skyward. The Duluth trio of Alan Sparhawk, Mimi Parker and bassist Steve Garrington are as sure footed as a Welsh team in Cardiff and have in this lovely, quiet and dense album produced another set of golden wonders. Perhaps it the presence of the Wilco link that is adding a key ingredient. Guitarist Nels Cline played on Low's last album "C'mon" and here the Wilco supremo Jeff Tweedy produces with real understanding of the band's ethos not least for the first time equally sharing the vocal duties between Sparhawks deep mournful voice and the lovely airy beauty of Parker's more sweeter approach which on balance is the predominant colour on show here. Those Low fans seeking a repeat of the the huge power chords of "The Great Destroyer" may not find "The Invisible Way" to their liking as it is mostly populated with acoustic guitar and pounding piano's. This does not however detract from the sheer power of the Low aesthetic for this record is as solid as there previous work but the songwriting just keeps getting better.

The sparse opener "Plastic cup" does have a Thom Yorke feel to it and is driven by Sparhawks lead vocal which proclaims "well you could always count on your friends to get you high/that's right/and you could always count on the 'rents to get you by/you could fly". Even better is the brilliant hynotic "Amethyst" which starts with a solo that Neil Young would have longed to write and Robert Plant will be queuing up to cover. It is a song up there with Low's best songs, the sort of moving slow core powered by some of the best harmonies in rock music that slams a vice like grip on your CD player. Parker then follows this with the double punch of the rumbling piano ballad "So blue" and the ethereal country of "Holy Ghost" where her lovely vibrato aches with understated emotion. Tweedy brings back those glowing harmonies again on the mid point standout "Waiting", although the desperation on "Clarence White" takes the album into much darker corners. It is Parker's lead on "Just make it stop" however that provides the album standout. As the National Public Radio review so nicely puts it locates this song "squarely in that sweet spot where darkness and worry are swathed in pristine beauty". The gorgeous closer "To our knees" performs the same feat.

Taken as a whole you could argue that most of Low's albums are a variation on a theme and on "The Invisible Way" the band work within fairly narrow confines, with songs taking subtle twists and turns that gradually grow into marked differences on repeated listens. It is only on one of the later tracks "On my own" that Sparkhawk really cuts loose on his guitar and lands a fiery electric solo characteristic of old. This is a small complaint when you look at this album in the round, since it is a glacial beauty littered with harmonies that remain as exquisite as ever. Some have already proclaimed it the best Low album ever which is perhaps loading the praise far too high. What "The Invisible Way" confirms is that over twenty years this band have produced some of the most compelling music either side of the Atlantic and that there is enormous power in elaborate restraint.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 21 April 2013
Have Low ever made a sub-standard album? I don't think so - and their status as a Minnesota state treasure or indeed now a US national treasure is maintained by this new album. No surprises here, but no disappointments either and whilst there isn't anything quite as good as Especially Me from 2011's "C'mon" there equally isn't a duff track here. I slightly prefer Jim James' "Regions Of Light And Sound Of God" to this amongst the quieter albums currently on my playlist hence the 4 stars rather than 5 but long may Low continue to produce such excellence.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 4 May 2013
Bought on the strength of reviews in music magazines with no prior knowledge of the band. This is just a beautifully understated set of songs which draw you in the more you go back and listen to them.
Competing with Anna Calvi for that chilled out Sunday morning slot.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 30 April 2013
After just having seen Low perform in Bristol, I would urge anyone with a liking for quality heartfelt music to buy this CD. Layered textures, hypnotic beats, with a sense of joy and hope in despair. Gorgeous, moving and brilliant.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 20 March 2013
Low as a band has passed me by over the years, and on the bleak but beautiful strength of this 10th album I have compulsory catching up to do. Having `discovered' Alan Sparhawk as a guitarist on the recent Retribution Gospel Choir release [and therefore researched and read about him] this latest Low album became a necessary listen. I have been struck by the mournful simplicity of the songs, like the brooding piano and pace of second track 'Amethyst', which is transcended from its dark lyricism by the beauty of melody and harmonising between Sparhawk and wife Mimi Parker. There is also the exquisite harmonising from multi-tracking Parker's vocal on songs like 'So Blue'. There is a folk sensibility in many of these songs which, as with 'So Blue', have a building anthemic layer that is genuinely rousing.

An example of the brooding lyrics wrapped in the beauty of melody and harmony is seventh track 'Four Score'. All of the songs are suggestive rather than telling in their expression - atmosphere over description. This track is graced with the multi-tracking harmony of Mimi Parker.

The next song 'Just Make It Stop' is even starker in this lyrical/melodic contrast, again Mimi singing in multi-tracked beautiful harmony, words as bleak as,

'You see, I'm close to the edge
I'm at the end of my rope
The rope is starting to thread
I'm trying to keep my hold'

Penultimate and tenth track 'On My Own' is full of wonderful contrasts. It contains a scorching Sparhawk guitar solo, all fuzz and feedback, and a juxtaposition of contrasting lyrics that baffle, from the middle chorus of,

'How want turns to hungry
How hope turns to `no'
How fear turns to angry
On my own'

to the closing line

'Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday'

which is repeated eight times above the continuing fuzz.

The album closes on what by now is the requisite Low musical paradox of counter-balanced words and melody. 'On Our Knees' presents its poetic musings on love and regret/loss within the soothing embrace of more Parker harmony. Gorgeous.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 28 March 2013
My 3rd and final attempt to review this album, I don't know what Amazon had done to the previous 2 attempts. As a longtime Low fan but ex Wilco fan I was worried about this album when I found out jeff tweedy was producing but he's done them justice and created an album with an unplugged feel about it. The presence of more piano + more of Mimi's vocals + Alan's voice + duets with Mimi+ the best batch of songs since Trust = the best Low album to date. Some heartbreaking but beautiful music here which I can't stop playing.
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on 22 April 2013
After a few more experimental albums (louder on 'Great Destroyer', very quiet on 'Drums & Guns), Low's last album 'C'mon' was a neat package of all the best bits of their career - multi-layered melodies, evocative dynamics, minimalist arrangements as well as more expansive, orchestral tracks - and 'Invisible Way' is another slice of that. Low have crossed into all kinds of styles across their long career, but they've got a nice stride going now so if you enjoyed any of their last four or five releases there'll be plenty to enjoy here.
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on 26 January 2015
I bought this because i liked "just make it stop". The album is not as good. For a start there's a lot of the male half of the band and I prefer the females voice. Secondly, the songs become very predictable and seem to climax by just repeating a section over and over. A little bit more thought and some detours from the standard structures would have been good. Not bad but not great, just ok.
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on 3 June 2013
I'd never heard of Low and first saw them on Later with Jools Holland a week or so ago.
I was blown away by the simple but powerful songs, especially "Just make it stop" and I bought the Invisible way on the strength of that alone. I'll be checking out their earlier work now.
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on 19 May 2013
This album picks up where the last one left off, amazing sound, unbelievably beautiful harmonies at every turn, and very clever lyrics. A must for a lazy Sunday afternoon!
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THE GREAT DESTROYER by Low (Audio CD - 2007)

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