Low, the 20-year-old outfit that carved a niche in ultra-light, slow rock amidst a loud punk scene, are cooing again on their 10th album. Produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, The Invisible Way experiments with more piano, more lead vocals by drummer Mimi Parker (frontman Alan Sparhawk’s wife), and more energy (occasionally); like Morphine but replacing the jazz tinge with gospel harmonies.
As their name implies, Low are seasoned pros at soaking in a depressive state as a form of cathartic therapy. Or, as they describe it on “Waiting” [LISTEN]: “The truth can hide/Sometimes right behind the sorrow.” They refuse to stop looking for that truth, and they’ll check behind every last piece of sorrow they can find.
Parker, one of the pioneers of the stripped-down, mallet-and-brush indie-drumkit, is nothing if not subdued. Although Low bumps up the speed on a couple tracks, their volume never reaches “full rock.” Even when guitar-distortion makes its album debut in the breakdown of “On My Own” [LISTEN], there’s no bass drum or full-fledged drumstick to be heard. The rebellious choice reminds of John Roderick‘s recent punk-bashing manifesto, where he states ”indie rock is the belief system that loudness and energy [are] egotistical excesses.” Low prove this point, but even post-rock mope-masters Mogwai recognize that uplifting instrumentals with some bashing are good for the soul.
From the single-loving consumer angle, it could also use a heart-wrenching, TV-show-worthy cut of bald-faced, stripped-down beauty – like their own “Point of Disgust” [LISTEN]. The closest jam to that is the standout “Just Make it Stop,” [LISTEN] which skips along quickly, but resolves its chord progression infrequently and at strange times. This, coupled with the upbeat tempo, gives a sense of frustrated dissatisfaction that beautifully matches the need to “just make it stop:” our narrator tantalizingly close to her desires, but that one hindrance outside her control just won’t “stop.” It doesn’t matter what “it” is, because we’ve all felt it:
Now I’m looking up from a ten-foot hole
Seeing nothing but blue sky shining on my soul
As I enter the court, I untwist the knot
We could get where we’re going
If I could just make it stop
Although Invisible… starts with bitterness towards entitled drug users and plagiarists [LISTEN] and follows with loads of depression, it ends with a solution [LISTEN]: don’t “abuse the love we all need.” It’s largely single-free and less catchy than your more heavily-played alt-indie records, but the entire album calmly relieves you of unhappiness by bathing you in it.