Print Edition: March 27, 2013
The Invisible Way
Twenty years and 10 albums in, Low continues to step forward in their particularly lumbering, despondent sort of way. The tempos on their new, Jeff Tweedy-produced album The Invisible Way never breach a moderate pace in keeping with the desolate spirit of the record. There is a persistent, meditative and minimal intensity to the work that demands both close attention and patience, though the payoff is considerable. Jeff Tweedy’s touch can be heard in the spacious and weighty low end acoustic arrangements, reminiscent of A Ghost Is Born era Wilco. The Duluth trio powered by dual husband and wife vocalists Mimi Parker and Alan Spearhawk hinge entire songs on subtle chord changes. Their distinctive baritone harmonies and sparse instrumentation matches the minimal lyrical content; much like a Hemingway novel, most of the gravity and meaning is carried by the subtext. When Parker finally admits, “I can tell something’s wrong” on “Holy Ghost,” this slight statement re-frames the song’s preceding story in a whole new light. “On My Own’s” explosion of distorted guitar is so striking because it is the only moment of release on an album fraught with unspoken spiritual and interpersonal tension.
The New Life
Hailing from Northern Ireland, Girls Names decided to completely disregard the effortless and catchy surf-rock jangle found on their 2011 debut Dead To Me. Instead, they take the listener down a nostalgic and dark path on the recently released The New Life. Psychedelic overtones, heavy reverb and ominous lyrics engulf all 10 post-punk tracks – reminiscent of the early 1980s British doom and gloom scene, which inspired a generation of white eyeliner and white paste upon your face. Talents like Joy Division and The Cure are easy comparisons, as Girls Names are similarly adept to strong instrumental interplay. However, the title of the fourth track, “Hypnotic Regression” seamlessly sums up the problems with the first half of The New Life. Filled with a domineering rhythm section, forgettable melodies and hypnotic drones, The New Life’s first half is almost completely devoid of any liveliness or originality. These holes in the album, however, do serve to accentuate the truly standout tracks, like the Wake inspired “A Second Skin” or the dissonant and organ synth heavy “Pittura Infamant.” Overall, the album fails to develop the new identity or “new life” the band is clearly searching for with this record.
Autre Ne Veut
Every Autre Ne Veut song feels like it’s on the verge of collapse; Arthur Ashin’s voice breaking but not quite, fake and real chorals propelingl with drum and hand-clap beats backing when the whole show isn’t being overwhelmed by off-tune horns and saxophone. All the lyrics are too much, obsessing over mirror-shown age (“Gonna Die”) and cathecting (“Play By Play”), yet the desperate sincerity has its moments, like the fragile promise that fans out in all directions of “Counting:” “I’m counting on the idea/that you’ll stay alive.” Synths crowd and cut off into separate rhythms Ashin’s voice, which reaches heights like local theatre dreaming of beyond Broadway, accompanied by its cloned manipulations, high notes turned into downpitched drops and merged into instrument – the scenes swivel between drained loneliness and a stage performance of that same anti-feat. The more things tend toward simpler pop on Anxiety, the more sameness creeps in (Autre Ne Veut’s isn’t even the best Whitney Houston response-titled track this year), but in the cracked, resounding stop-start near-scream confession of Anxiety’s strongest moments, that’s easy to forget.
Chvrches, the hot breakout band from last year has finally hit with a long awaited EP, Recover. After seemingly releasing their first two killer tracks onto the internet last year, “The Mother We Share” and “Lies,” there was huge expectation for what this band could produce on a full or extended play. Comprised of Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty, the three from Scotland only came together roughly a year earlier but have already found an edgy electronic synthpop sound that, with Mayberry’s sweet and soft vocals layered above, has real depth. While those two particular songs aren’t here on Recover there’s three new tracks that are just as hot in addition to two remixes. It begins with the self-titled “Recover” which musically takes you on a trip as the synth continually pops along with Mayberry’s tight vocal punches. One of the other new songs found is “Zvvl” takes Doherty as lead on vocals. While I do prefer Mayberry to be here this has a great, darker, drive to it and is a nice changeup. The final new entry is “Now Is Not The Time” which sees Doherty step to the background again. This is my favourite on the EP. It’s light, airy, and makes me crave for the summer. When a full length does drop they will be ‘the’ band, if they aren’t already.