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The Minnesotan trio Low have long been referred to as pioneers of ‘slowcore’, a glacially indolent branch of indie rock, but in truth they’ve grown far beyond that mis-applied tag. A back catalogue as varied as theirs demonstrates it easily. Their last few albums particularly, from the apocalyptically dark Trust from 2002 to 2007’s electronically savage and deceptively poppy Drums and Guns, via 2005’s rocktageous The Great Destroyer, have shown that their sense of style has been governed more by melody, harmony and lyrical themes than simply by meandering tempi. It would be difficult to predict in which direction they might take a new album, and that’s something they’re not given enough credit for.
C’mon, their ninth LP, is not as musically adventurous as previous works, but it is among their most emotionally direct and immediately satisfying. Pinging glockenspiel and aching guitar chords herald the album’s opening and create tenderness so readily that by the time husband and wife Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker’s vocal harmonies arrive, they’re a mere bonus. Close attention to their vocals on that opening track, Try to Sleep, suggests a very human intimacy that wasn’t present on the worldlier Drums and Guns. Mentions of cameras and allusions to forced insomnia sprout palpable, drowsy warmth, and make this as strong a beginning as the band has ever recorded.
The record continues in this vein, with only occasional lunges into the gloominess with which they’re chiefly associated. Witches stands out as a noisier cousin of Sunflower, from 2001’s impeccable Things We Lost in the Fire, with similarly violent undertones. "When you’ve finally submitted to embarrassing capture, take out that baseball bat and show those witches some pasture," sings Sparhawk, coolly, over quivering, perfectly restrained guitar distortion. Despite the latent anger the words suggest, it’s delivered stridently, with Sparhawk’s time in his garage rock side-project Retribution Gospel Choir unleashing more volume than we might have expected.
They progress through shades of light effortlessly across C’mon. Sunlight stretches over the sweet, slow pop of Done, while something notably duskier envelops the plod of Majesty/Magic, but both show off Low’s now-perfected ability to harness tension and tweak their own performance for maximum impact. The light may even switch to buzzing neon on Nightingale, which could quite easily be rolled out just before closing time at a grubby haunt. Variable as they may be on this strong collection, the elements that bind are the clarity of the performance and the simplicity of the songs – emotionally the band is staring the listener in the eye. ‘Slowcore’ might be what people call them, but Low have grown beautifully beyond that, and will grow more still.
Top Customer Reviews
On this album they have called in Nels Cline the innovative guitarist from Wilco to play on a couple of tracks including "Done" which you suspect may turn out to be one of their greatest songs with its almost 50s classic ballad feel and infused throughout by the trademark heart stopping dual vocals from Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker (it goes without saying that bassist Steve Garrington is as sure footed as ever). The album opens with the shimmering "Try to sleep" and you notice immediately the crisp production which enhances all these songs for which we must to thank Matt Beckley, a man best known for his work with the likes of Leona Lewis and Avril Lavigne (he should now be forgiven).Read more ›
And yet, on third, fourth and fifth listen, this album opens up like a tumescent flower in bloom, leaving the listener in no doubt as to its true majesty. Low have certainly pioneered a unique musical brand in the past but here they refine it to dazzling effect. Try to Sleep is a delicate foray into low-fi indie splendour whilst You See Everything retains the attention through an infectious refrain which haunts the listener. Witches is more bellicose (but only relative to other songs on this album) and reminds the listener of Spiritualised at their most stripped back. Especially Me benefits from arch lyrics which prove impossibly moving and self-deprecating ('But as it stands, We don't have a clue, Especially me and probably you') whilst Nightingale reverts to the light touch motifs of the album opener. The real creative peak of this spell-binding masterpiece though is Nothing But Heart, a kind of Folk/Drone opus, which builds gravitas and momentum from glacially minimalist beginnings. The finishing crescendo of harmonies and heart-rending vocals will not fail to move the listener.
One of the most remarkable things about this album though is the subtle contrast in mood and atmosphere that the band conjure up through both instrument, lyric and vocal tack. You are never quite sure if this is an album of hope, despair, love or hate. It consistently challenges the listener to reflect and re-assess.Read more ›
It's difficult to grasp that Low have been around for almost twenty years. Originally pioneers of the slowcore movement, they changed tack slightly with 2002's "Trust" album, developing a more forceful sound, which appears to have found its natural conclusion on their ninth album, "C'Mon".
It's a truly impressive collection - Alan Sparhawk's controlled guitar distortion and measured voice combine intimately with wife Mimi Parker's backing vocals, while other instruments add detail. On the first track "Try To Sleep" a xylophone gently rains notes over the soporific strains and on "Witches" an elegant lap steel guitar and strangely askew, almost menacing banjo entwine themselves. Parker takes the vocal lead on "Especially Me" and it's a particularly moving piece.
Together with references to shadows and partial awareness, there's an underlying peril present within many of the lyrics, which brings a certain tension. It might just be a feeling, but it does imply there's something being played out on "C'Mon" which isn't instantly fathomable. 9/10.
Easily the best album of 2011.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A brilliant album. 'You See Everything' in particular resounds with such strong and beautiful vocals.Published 6 months ago by Joanna M.
With Low you really have to look for the drama - they are not prone to excesses in expression. This is however among the slightly less bleak albums, and perhaps I like it slightly... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Michael Patriksson
Was looking forward to listening to this on vinyl, unfortunately when it arrived it was so warped it was unplayable. Read morePublished on 8 Jan. 2014 by P. Bowman
I was put off this band for ages because of the use of the word "minimal"! I WAS WRONG. SUPERB.Published on 29 May 2013 by John Williams
Somehow Low almost passed me by. Dazzled by my love for contemporaries Galaxy 500 I never thought I needed Low. How wrong was I? Read morePublished on 1 April 2012 by M. Lee
I won't add anything extra as the other reviews say plenty.
I think this and things we lost in the fire is as good as C'mon, and I thought things we lost in the fire was... Read more
yeh i likes this one it is right canny.
getting more adventurous, a melding of the experimentation of drums and guns and the sLOWcore sound. Read more
This is the 6th album that I have bought by Low, and it is an excellent one: they are one of the most interesting bands that I have come across. Read morePublished on 24 April 2011 by Marlois
oh, they've only gone & done it again.... made a bloomin' masterpiece that's what. I've only just finished my first listen to this one, but dare I say it might just rank up there... Read morePublished on 18 April 2011 by real-alan