Thursday, September 27, 2012

Low: C'mon

Do you ever go for a long drive at night? Maybe just go for a spin around the block, just to clear you head, you find yourself mesmerized by the shadows cast by the dim streetlights and driving for a lot longer than you thought you would. C'Mon, by Low, feels like that light to me. It's focused, directing me down a long, dark road. For long stretches of the album, singers Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker sing-chant fragmented lyrics over gradually morphing instruments. Consider the 8-minute long "Nothing But Heart," which stretches its main phrase ("I'm nothing but heart") to its breaking point as the guitar parts rise and fall and squeal and sing in the background and the drums chug on. There are other lyrics, but I think you're not even meant to hear about them. The album is about its spare soundscapes.

The opening track, "Try to Sleep," is pretty arresting, pulling you into the album's tonal spirit, an off-kilter lullaby whose chorus goes: "Try to sleep, don't look at the camera." I think that's about sums it up: relaxing yet unnerving. Particularly excellent is "Witches," a growling indie-blues moment about facing fears in the darkness (and about not trying to act like Al Green.) Importantly, this is not a quiet moment on the album. In fact, it's not as quiet of an album as it seems, it just happens to have that David Gilmour quality to it of being soft and mellow but also huge and imposing.

Low does a lot of great stuff on this album, mostly in showing restraint. They're obviously great musicians and maybe the music is more complex than it seems, but it has that repetitive, moody quality that doesn't require much excessive adornment, but needs to seem deep and dark, with all the elements - guitars, strings, drums, vocals and anything else - in perfect balance. I give special notice to the two singers. Sparhawk's rasp is commanding and solemn, but weary. Parker's quivers with uncertainty. Both can carry a song, when pushed way to the front, as on "$20," or help build the atmosphere from the bottom of the mix. When they sing together, it's like oil and water, both clashing yet neatly sitting together.

This is soft music for people who don't have the patience for soft music. The moaning "Especially Me" zones you out: it's not even as long as I thought it was, only 5 minutes when I felt like it was 20. That's not a criticism, I was genuinely surprised when the next song started and I realized I had only been listening to one song that whole time. Songs like that tend to grow in intensity as they go along. The vocals induce trances, cause meditation and reflection. I'm not even sure this album is meant to be listened to... it's there to not-hear, in its hypnotic way.

Buy this album now: iTunes Canada // iTunes USA // //

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