Low – The Invisible Way (Sub Pop)

March 19, 2013 by  

Low - The Invisible Way Album Cover

A Low album works in two seemingly disparate ways: it is simultaneously an easy, unchallenging listen and a demanding, intensely moving one. The tempo is steady, the melody pleasant and the voices soft. However, the band’s expert handling of mood and restraint have helped them thrive for twenty years without ever becoming boring or generic.

The Invisible Way is no different, continues pretty much where Low left off on 2011’s C’mon. Throughout their career, the songs have ranged from the accessibly melancholic to the near-unlistenably slow, and this record certainly leans towards the poppier side of Low’s spectrum. Low hardly need help in extracting every drop of beauty from a sparse arrangement, but there would be few better suited to the job than Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. While the sound is hardly distinguishable from previous Low efforts, Tweedy’s ear for an effortless sad pop song is clearly at work on tracks like ‘Just Make It Stop’ and ‘Amethyst’.

Indeed, ‘Just Make It Stop’ was a wise choice as a first release from the album. Not only is it the most instant track, but the choice of a Mimi Parker lead vocal is appropriate on a record where her voice features more prominently than on any other Low album. The track also works as a perfect showcase for how the band manage to convey heartbreaking desperation and loneliness through a softly strummed acoustic melody.

The fullest sound is heard on ‘So Blue’, where Parker once again takes the lead, while piano, guitar and drums swell around her. In classic Low fashion, something is always held back, as the music seems to build forever, without ever hitting a distinguishable climax. This is where Low’s relevance and longevity comes from: a song can be completed and finished just as you are waiting for something dramatic to happen, just as you have given yourself completely over to it. There can be a moment’s disappointment, but immediately afterwards you realise that Low know best, and the song was as evocative and fulfilling as it could be, without ever delivering catharsis.

The Invisible Way is not a leap forward for Low, rather a confirmation that where they are standing is exactly where they should be. Here’s hoping they stick around a while longer.