Low - The Invisible Way

by Andy Brown Rating:6.5 Release Date:2013-03-18

Over the 20 years they've been around, Low have been responsible for some astoundingly beautiful music. The Invisible Way is the bands 10th LP. Recorded by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, it takes a stripped-down, simplified approach to Low's sound. The voices of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker are as entrancing as ever, the melodies often beautiful, yet overall, it doesn't quite live up to the bands impressive back-catalogue.

Despite the gorgeous harmonies and melancholic overtones, Low's music has never just been about sounding pretty. Their finest work has always balanced light and shade, the direct with the cryptic, and the warm and comforting with the hypnotic and haunting. 2007's Drums and Guns was imbued with tension, anger and discordance yet those distinctive harmonies still sounded beautiful, life-affirming. The album drew on the band's response to the Bush administration and the war in Iraq; a deeply personal response to world events and one of their strongest musical statements.

2011's C'mon saw the band breathe a collective sigh and was clearly their moment of release after the claustrophobic atmosphere of Drums and Guns. If each album was in some way a reaction to the last then perhaps it was difficult to know where to go with their next release. The Invisible Way opens with 'Plastic Cup', a satisfyingly distinctive slice of Low magic. The production gets the most out of Sparhawk's and Parker's voices and the song itself is a tender rumination on the nature of worth and legacy. Other highlights include the Parker-sung 'Just Make It Stop', a classic Low tearjerker with ever-hopeful undercurrents.

'Waiting' displays Sparhawk's way with a simple yet captivating tune. It's also genuinely affecting as he sings, "I'm waiting like a child/ Hope runs wild/ The truth can hide/ sometimes right behind the sorrow". There's a lot to love about The Invisible Way but by the time it's finished, there's a nagging feeling that something's missing.

Taken individually and on their own merit, it's difficult to say that any of the songs are particularly weak yet, as an album, there's a distinct lack of tension. The band sound relaxed, content even, yet without those darker moments, the album seems to lose a little momentum. Listening to recent releases by Sparhawk's side-projects Retribution Gospel Choir and The Murder of Crows, it's tempting to speculate that Sparhawk is releasing his more experimental (more interesting) urges elsewhere.

It's important to note that Low are incredibly special, a band I really can't recommend enough. They've created some life-changing music and blown audiences away wherever they've performed. They're one of my favourite bands of all time. Yet I have to say that The Invisible Way doesn't send shivers down my spine quite the way Trust, Things We Lost in the Fire, The Great Destroyer or Drums and Guns did.

The band have set their own bar particularly high and, while The Invisible Way would be another band's defining statement, for Low it's an album which will struggle to stand out among so many of their other releases.

Overall Rating (0)

0 out of 5 stars
  • I'm a huge fan of Low but in agreement with you here Andy - it is just too relaxed an album, with little immediacy, too much piano and not enough moments of dark and tension - It's a nice album and I'm sure after many listens it will grow on me, but it's not a patch on C'mon, Drums and Guns and their best albums (for me) Secret Name and Things We Lost In The Fire

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