MIMO - When Music is Your Fix

Low “The Invisible Way” –Album Review

Sub Pop (2013)

I have a theory when it comes to sad music, or angry music, or music that rides on other emotions we consider negative. When it’s done right, it can be cathartic, even therapeutic. The idea is when you are sad and you listen to some good sad music, it helps you feel better, or at least not as sad. It serves as a vent for your emotions.

Slowcore trio Low have spent more than a decade exploring and perfecting this kind of music as an art. Their latest, The Invisible Way, continues this trend, weaving slow tempos and minimal instrumentation with thoughtful, introspective lyricism to form a tapestry of beautiful melancholy.

What makes their music work so well is that Low apparently understands the value of space and air in music—room to breathe. It’s hard to describe, but on The Invisible Way they create these airy, desolate sonic landscapes where you almost notice what isn’t there more than what is, which makes each note played and sung ring with that much more resonance. Then, as the track list progresses, you find these ebb-and-flow moments, these times when the music builds and swells to an outpouring of emotion (like on “So Blue” and “Just Make It Stop”), and then recedes. Don’t ask me how it makes me feel better; it just does.

With Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy at the production helm, The Invisible Way wanders a bit from formula in a couple of ways, both of which I think actually serve to improve and refresh the band’s sound. First of all, the emphasis is more on acoustic instruments, with less electric guitar and more acoustic piano than we find on their earlier work like 2005’s The Great Destroyer. Secondly, Mimi Parker, the better half of usual-lead vocalist Alan Sparhawk, takes the lead spot in more of the album’s tracks, frequently doing layered harmonies with herself on tunes like “Just Make it Stop” and “Four Score,” and comforting us with gospel-tinged tracks “Holy Ghost” and “To Our Knees.” This, combined with the signature harmonies between Parker and Sparhawk throughout, actually make the vocals the strongest musical element on this record.

Granted, it helps to be in a particular frame of mind to listen to The Invisible Way. But this album stands among the band’s best, and I have a feeling that when you listen to this latest offering by Low—after awhile, you won’t be.


4.5 / 5 stars     

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About the Author


Growing up in Portland, Oregon, Kim Phelps found her inspiration and love for music listening to local bands play in the coffeehouses around town. She soon found her own voice as a singer-songwriter, and eventually began playing her own gigs in the coffee shops. Her personal influences include Ani DiFranco, Indigo Girls, Ingrid Michaelson and Cat Power, but as an indie musician herself, she has an affinity for any band or artist who pursues creative freedom on the outskirts of the music industry. As our Indie correspondent, Kim makes a point of highlighting up-and-coming independent acts who are creating a buzz and building an audience. When she's not blogging for us or playing in the coffee shops, Kim works as a barista herself to help pay the bills. She currently lives in Seattle, Washington.

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Posted in: Album Reviews, Featured, Indie/Alternative Music


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