Saturday, December 24, 2011

Low, "C'Mon"

This just missed my top ten this year, actually, it would have been my #11 album of the year. There were four albums but only three spots (#8, 9, 10) and it was the odd one out after a fairly agonizing elimination process.

I didn't hear this album until the start of December, which makes no sense because Low have been one of the most reliable bands for me over the past ten years. I'm on their mailing list and was getting all the email reminders to watch the new video here, stream the new songs until the end of the week there, but somehow never got around to hearing anything. But no problem, I figured I'd hear the best parts of "C'mon" if I checked out a few live bootlegs. Other than the slow enveloping epic "Nothing But Heart", nothing really stood out.

December rolled around and I finally decided I couldn't let 2011 expire without hearing a new Low album that had already been out for nearly eight months. And that's when it hit me. About a week later, I became perhaps the last Low fan to know that they'd released a video where John Stamos sings a swimsuit model to sleep and then gets run over by a train. It's been that kind of year.

Low have been alternating "traditional" and "experimental" albums for the past decade. "Things We Lost In the Fire" is perhaps the apex of their slowcore period, afterward, their philosophy moved away from squeezing all they could out of their one trick. "Trust" upped the volume levels and its gritty intensity seemed to be drawn more from blues and metal than anything connected to indie rock at the time. "The Great Destroyer" was their polarizing masterpiece, to those who can't get enough of it (like me), it was refreshing to hear them get revved up and angry, to others it was a near sacrilege that played away from their established strengths. "Drums and Guns" tinkered heavily with electronics, changing up the formula yet again. "C'mon" is like "The Great Destroyer Lite", dominated by the guitar-heavy sound of that album but without the sense of frustration, anger and fury that made it special, as opposed to slowcore with a few screechy guitar solos. That sounds like a criticism, and in a way it is, because "The Great Destroyer" will be difficult to top. But "C'mon" isn't meant to be a carbon copy of it, it's a different kind of album. It's also lacking in "Drums and Guns"'s somnambulism, and that's a good thing.

The highs on "C'mon" aren't consistently high enough, there are a lot of very good songs on this album but not a lot of great ones. "Nothing But Heart" stands out because it's the eight minute epic, "Witches" is the crunchy, sort of sexy one, and $20$ is the one with a fractional BPM. But the all time classic is "Try to Sleep", which is a Low-ified version of Radiohead's "No Surprises", complete with glockenspiel, feather-light melody, and the lyrical sense of melancholy, resignation and giving up on this earthly world.

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