I got my first listen yesterday of new albums by the Shins (Wincing the Night Away) and Low (Drums and Guns). To be fair, there is absolutely no basis by which to compare these two, other than a common label in Sub Pop.
But I have to admit: I was far more intrigued by getting a crack at Low’s album than the Shins. Nothing against the Shins, really; they’re swell and all, though I’ve never been particularly floored by what they do.
More likely, the spacious and aggressive (for Low, anyway) tones of Low’s previous release, The Great Destroyer, still resonate, and the group’s evolution is far more appealing to me than that of the Shins.
As such, I’m sure it was someone’s idea of a joke to tag the genre ID as “pop” on Drums and Guns. Sure, Low took a more accessible approach on The Great Destroyer, but “pop” might be stretching it a bit, even on a new album that incorporates vocal/electronic loops and drum machines. The more I listen to this album, the more I’m sure Low played a couple of these tracks when we saw them in Tucson last March (Sandinista and Violent Past, specifically).
Low maintains its “slowcore” roots here, but this added layer of electronic assistance pushes the group into more a abstract place. Yet these ambient and almost incidental blips/bleeps (best appreciated on headphones) hardly clutter the sound; given Low’s minimal foundation, there certainly was room to add on without interfering with what they do best. Of course, Low likely threatens to turn off traditionalists with these new arrangements (if The Great Destroyer didn’t already), but, again, none of it feels excessive; the mood is still stark and haunting.
And Alan Sparhawk’s lyrics are dark as ever. On the macabre and lovely Murderer:
“One more thing before I go /
One more thing I’ll ask you, Lord /
You may need a murderer /
Someone to do your dirty work.”
Drums and Guns is due out March 20 on Sub Pop.
Low | Violent Past(Edit: Taken down at request of label.)