Too many words, too many words

and I can hear 'em


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Roundup

Shockingly enough, I've been so busy in May that neither this nor my personal blog have been updated, although links and information for both have been piling up steadily. I was hoping to get time to write a proper song review here, but no such luck. However, I am going to share some of the stuff that I've been reading/watching about Low that's worth your time (some of which I wish I'd run into before I wrote my review of C'mon):

- NPR had Alan and Mimi do one of their Tiny Desk Concerts, and it's great; just the two of them and Alan's acoustic guitar, performing "Try to Sleep," a really lovely "Nightingale," and "Something's Turning Over." If you read this blog, well, I'm sure you've already gone to go watch it.

- They also showed up on this episode of the Sound Opinions podcast. I haven't listened yet, but I'm looking forward to it (please note that if you look at the text description of the podcast, there are links at the end of the second segment to just view Low's part of the show).

- As you might recall, Alan's solo album came out on the wonderful Silber Records. Well, Silber label head Brian John Mitchell also has a fine zine called QRD, and he interviewed Alan for an issue devoted to Christians in music. And down at the bottom of the (fascinating) interview there are links to all the other times Mitchell has interviewed Alan, including a joint interview with Mimi for a couples in rock issue. Pretty essential reading.

- I might have referred to one or both of these pieces in my C'mon interview, but in any case I can highly recommend Andy Downing's chat with Mimi for a Wisconsin area-something (website? newspaper? I don't know), and Sam Adam's interview with Alan for eMusic, which contains this bit that I wish I'd quoted: "We're never intentional writers, but during the process of doing this, realizing what sort of songs we're writing, I did notice the tone of the language and what's being said was being directed back and forth between the two of us — or on a more symbolic level, an intimate dialogue between two people who have a history and are trying to be honest with each other. There's definitely more, almost, love songs on there in contrast to the last couple records we've done."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

There's gotta be an end to that


So Low played at the Mod Club in Toronto last night, during which time the audience found out just how horribly our elections went (a little context, if you need it). After he flubbed the opening to "Murderer," Alan even asked us about the results; the when crowd erupted in boos and profanity, he just laughed and told us now we'd see what it's felt like to be an American in 2004. He also prefaced the song with a comment about how the States still doesn't have universal health care, but does manage to have public rallies when they murder someone.

Eric Pollard, who drums for the Retribution Gospel Choir and has awesome glasses, played keyboards the whole show (the first time I've seen Low live as anything other than a trio). Alan made some comments about marijuana (and then, jokingly, "Mim hates it when I do this, but it's getting rough") before playing "Canada." They played "Sunflower," my favourite song from Things We Lost in the Fire. They played every song on C'mon except for "Done," which I really wanted to hear. "Especially Me" was transcendent, so was "Nothing But Heart." Hearing them play something like "Two-Step" is always interesting, because for five minutes or so you can go, "oh, this is what they were like when they were a different band." (Sometimes I wish I'd seem them live after, say, The Curtain Hits the Cast or even earlier, but I wouldn't trade the Low of 2011 for the world) Too many of the songs felt appropriate for a truly sad night for Canada; "Breaker," "Try to Sleep," "Especially Me," "Something's Turning Over," "Murderer."

Brandon from Fringe was in the crowd, which was unexpected. I'm fairly used to talking to musicians whose work I love at this point, but I've never had the chance to meet someone who's on a TV show I love. I told him that the show and his work on it were both awesome, and then left him alone. He seemed to appreciate both sentiments.

Memoryhouse opened and were, frankly, incredible. If their debut album lives up to their singles and the live performance we saw, then I'm going to have a five-way race for my album of the year (I already can't choose between Low, Mogwai, Subrosa, and EMA).

Sorry if the language here seems a bit listless or colourless. I'm still depressed about everything about last night that wasn't the Low concert.

Low
Mod Club, Toronto
May 2, 2011

Breaker
Try to Sleep
You See Everything
Monkey
Silver Rider
Witches
Especially Me
Last Snowstorm of the Year
$20
Majesty/Magic
Nightingale
Nothing But Heart
Sunflower
Something's Turning Over
Murderer

Encore:
Canada
Two-Step
When I Go Deaf

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I would be your king


Still very busy this week, but my review of C'mon is up at PopMatters today. I will be covering all of the tracks here, but if anyone was wondering what I thought of the album... (quick answer: 9/10)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

STAMOS

So there's a new, unembeddable video for "Try to Sleep" out. I've been very busy this week, but after I get some stuff dealt with, I should be able to write another entry for here... for now, I have to say I like the video (and yes, I think he does a good job in it).

EDIT: Yeah, for some reason it didn't come up on YouTube when I searched it, but it's there. So here's the video.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Majesty/Magic



100th post! Of course, not all of them are songs, and in fact we're coming perilously close to the second anniversary of the last proper TMW,TMW review. In that time, Low have made another album, although we won't actually see it until mid-April. I've already preordered C'mon, which means I can listen to a streaming version, and if you're a fan of Low I can say confidently that you should too. I'll leave general comments for later (or elsewhere, assuming I get to review it for PopMatters), but it might be the warmest record they've ever made, and there are some stunning songs on there.

There is something I do when a band I love releases the album art and tracklisting for their next release. These days I can usually obtain the music pretty immediately, but whether it's minutes or months, I can't seem to stop indulging myself in some pretty serious judging during that gap between partial and complete knowledge. You see, if I like a song or album, the title almost always sounds right and fitting (and even cool) to me, and I can make allowances for even pretty bad album art (thankfully I think the front of C'mon looks just fine). But looking at that list of titles, nine times out of ten, I'll find at least a few that I think sound dumb. Sometimes more. And if the list is 'bad' enough (again, this is all in a total vacuum, without hearing any music), I think it does sometimes affect my reception of an album (I suspect this is a small part of why Elbow records always, ALWAYS underwhelm me at first).

Oh, I just got an email. I'm reviewing C'mon at PopMatters. So that answers that.

Anyway, C'mon is maybe the first Low album I've ever had this kind of reaction to. I quite liked the tracklistings of Drums and Guns, The Great Destroyer, and Trust, and before that I didn't know the band. But this new one... calling it C'mon? "Witches"? "$20" (before I realized that I already knew and loved it)? And most pressingly, "Majesty/Magic"?

Slash marks in track names, like parentheses, can be awesome if used correctly but are painful a lot of the time. And for some reason they always seem to me to be more suited to instrumental or abstract songs, like Eno's "Zawinul/Lava" or Excepter's "Greenhouse/Stretch." And even when it does work for more song-y songs it takes me a while to come around to it, like Japandroids' "Crazy/Forever" or Spoon's "The Guestlist/The Execution." It's the rare track like Primal Scream's "Shoot Speed/Kill Light" where I instantly like the name. (And I'm obviously not talking about tracks where the slash mark is separating two actual song names, that's different.)

"Majesty/Magic" was not in that latter camp. It's not as if I think I know what these songs are going to sound like when I see a tracklisting, it's just that some part of my brain rounds on the title and decides that it can't imagine any song I would like that you could call that. Thankfully (and typically), that part of my brain was wrong.

Like most of C'mon, "Majesty/Magic" is deceptively short, given its billowing, slow-building might. And however much Low might continue to change and grow, it's a slight relief to see that (as far as lyrical brevity goes) some things never change:

See how they twist 'round the room
Oh majesty, oh magic

How could they leave us so soon?
Oh majesty, oh magic

Oh majesty, oh magic
Oh majesty, oh magic
Oh majesty, oh magic
Oh majesty, oh magic


If you've been following Low (or even just this blog), it's not exactly hard to predict which part of the song boasts the "Pissing"-esque climax, but as the lyrics suggest, there isn't any anger to "Majesty/Magic." Instead there's mostly just a kind of restrained awe, coupled with a little muted sorrow. Alan and Mimi's slow, soaring duet on most of the lines here are a thing of beauty, and once we reach the last two minutes of the song and the guitar, bass, strings, even some quiet synethisizer burbling all pile on, it's a very gorgeous blur indeed. It'd be wrong to think that C'mon is any sort of retreat from the starkly experimental, kill-or-cure of Drums and Guns, but this is exactly the kind of song they wouldn't or couldn't make on that album; it's good to have them working in this stormy, ecstatic mode again.

I still would have preferred just "Majesty," though.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Hundred Years Behind My Eyes: Low in Eindhoven


I said I was coming back, and the first part of that is this long-overdue effort on my part. A little while back Low put out a free digital EP called Live at Eindhoven, which is excellent, but very short. That EP is just a small fragment of the band's performance at the Heartland Festival, recorded at the Catharinakerk Eindhoven, the Netherlands, January 22, 2009. Well, thanks to the good offices of some fellow fans, I had already been sitting on the MP3s of the band's complete show from that festival. For my own personal edification I took the two massive files I had, split them into individual songs, tagged them properly, popped some images of the organ at Eindhoven that I altered slightly to look a little different into the album art, and put them on my iPod (the first 'disc' is above, the second at the bottom of this post).

I saw the Retribution Gospel Choir live in Toronto around this time, and I had the chance to ask Alan really quickly whether he'd mind if I put this up for people; obviously if he did or if anyone from the band does and contacts me I will pull the links down immediately (they will also expire at some point, although I do check comments here). He indicated that he didn't really care, and seeing as how only four tracks from this show have been released (and those for free; you did have to sign up for the mailing list, but if you're reading this blog you should be on it already), I feel fine about sharing this wonderful show. In Eindhoven the band were augmented with other players and a choir, and given a full two hours and twenty minutes to play. The result is a fantastic set (covering everything from Things We Lost in the Fire to a then-unreleased song that turned up on C'mon) from a band at (I would argue) the height of their powers. At least some of these renditions are the best ones I've heard of that particular song, and all are at least as good as the recorded versions. The volume is a little low on these recordings, but the sound quality is fantastic, and any fan of the band should grab this immediate. I hope people enjoy it.

[The old links are dead, so here's a link to the whole thing. Please let me know if you have any problems with it!]

Disc One
01. (That's How You Sing) Amazing Grace (8:44)
02. Sunflower (5:18)
03. In Metal (4:23)
04. Candy Girl (5:54)
05. Dinosaur Act (4:53)
06. Kind of Girl (3:27)
07. Point of Disgust (4:32)
08. Whitetail (6:03)
09. Canada (4:28)
10. Belarus (4:12)
11. Breaker (3:23)
12. Silver Rider (5:48)
13. Shots & Ladders (10:18)

Total: 71:15

Disc Two
01. July (5:43)
02. Pretty People/Take Your Time (9:24)
03. Monkey (4:40)
04. Everybody's Song (4:17)
05. (Introductions) (1:45)
06. The Lamb (6:00)
07. Violent Past (3:14)
08. Laser Beam (3:15)
09. In Silence (3:43)
10. Always Fade (3:52)
11. Dragonfly (4:58)
12. Murderer (3:21)
13. (Encore Break) (2:17)
14. $20 (4:28) [I forgot to change the file before I uploaded it, so this is tagged as "My Love (Is For Free)," sorry!]
15. Sandinista (3:04)
16. When I Go Deaf (7:40)

Total: 71:30