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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Low bounces back on ‘The Invisible Way’


    The best thing about Low is that it’s never gone away. Much has been made of the anniversaries that The Invisible Way represents for the band — a 10th studio album, 20 years as a band and the ongoing marriage of songwriters Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker — but there’s little indication in the music that The Invisible Way is anything more than a typical Low record.

    The stunning harmonies and deft guitar work of “Amethyst” are exactly the kind of things one might find on Low’s 1993 debut, give or take some electric amplifiers.

    Elsewhere, songs like opener “Plastic Cup” make welcome additions to the Low catalogue for any number of reasons. In “Plastic Cup,” Sparhawk and Parker’s lyrical skills shine, beginning with the line “You could always count on your friends to get you high” which sounds far more tragic when sung in harmony over acoustic chord progressions. In fact, Low is in top lyrical form on The Invisible Way, with highlight “Holy Ghost” getting in great lines like “feeds my passion for transcendence … makes me wish I was empty.”

    While the band’s earliest material was notable for how it shaped and expanded a burgeoning genre, nowadays it seems like the band is quite comfortable with its past melodic achievements and content to write harmonious dirges without an electric instrument in sight.

    As with any Low album, the true gems stand out due to their melodic and vocal beauty, the elegiac “Clarence White” among them. Led by Sparhawk’s plaintive wailing, the song seems like it might collapse into a spiritual dirge at any moment. One doesn’t necessarily turn to slowcore for energy, but there was a time when Low was truly a formidable and adventurous band, and tracks like “Plastic Cup” and “Clarence White” serve as reminders of those early days.

    Parker’s more patient vocals are still the highlight they’ve always been, as evidenced by her soulful croon in “Four Score.” The album’s most affective moment surprisingly comes not in its quietest stretch, but as Sparhawk’s acoustic ballad “On My Own” transitions into a distortion-laden march to the grave. As soft as Low might want to get sometimes, sparks fly when the duo plugs in.

    However, as enjoyable as Low’s familiar style is, The Invisible Way begins to drag by the end. The end result is slightly forgettable, if more-than-adequate, Low album.

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