Low – The Invisible Way

Low – The Invisible Way

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Frank Black, when commenting on the success of The Pixies reunion tour, made a remark to this effect: We’re lucky that we never moved around much onstage when
we were younger, because now we can’t, and it still looks about the same. There’s a similar sort of idea behind part of the success of Low’s beautifully meandering latest album, The Invisible Way. Low is a band that just strolled past their twentieth anniversary unceremoniously, because their approach has always been modest and methodical. You can sound fresh as ever twenty years into your career with patient, spare material if that’s all you’ve ever offered.

And boy, is The Invisible Way is patient and spare. Producer Jeff Tweedy takes an almost monastic approach to capturing Low, letting every strum of the guitar and strike of the piano fully exhale, leaving big gaps of sonic space that barely maintain the momentum of any given song. It’s a thoroughly warm and hypnotic record that righteously eschews ostentation in favor of approachability and intimacy. The melancholy yet sweet tone of The Invisible Way is perfectly set by opener “Plastic Cup,” which imagines the titular object used for a drug test, dug up in a distant future and being wrongly assigned with all sorts of grandiose import. It’s a simultaneously depressive, odd, and endearing little story which can only seem upbeat when compared to what follows; the outright depressive, but no less effective, “Amethyst.”

Mimi Parker quickly rescues The Invisible Way from a perpetual funk with the ascending piano chords and harmonies of “So Blue,” but her next contribution, the heartbreakingly lonely “Holy Ghost,” brings the album back to its sorrowful plain. There are flashes of energy here and there, as on the elegantly grand “Clarence White,” but typically, Low contentedly operates at a mournful slog. That may not sound like an endorsement, but The Invisible Way is a potent reminder that, with memorable melodies and disciplined arrangements, an album almost entirely comprised of bummers can be a powerful thing. And when all of that meticulous arranging and leisurely building gives way to ecstatic, gloom-puncturing, guitar freak outs like the one that occurs on late album highlight “On My Own,” you’ll wish other bands had the patience to sucker punch you like that. That, right there, is the confidence of a twenty-year-old band.


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