Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The tyranny of distance

How much do I want to attend one (or more) of these shows? So much that it actually hurts a little. I hope all Low fans anywhere near Houston, NYC, Middletown or Minneapolis manage to get to one of those shows, because this sounds incredible:

Providing the musical backdrop to Thorson's piece, Heaven, Alan and Mimi are providing original music and vocal orchestration. Heaven examines the trinity of dance, music and light while exploring the various manifestations of ecstasy in religious practices and the ritualistic nature of dance.

I guess I'll just hope against hope they make their way to Toronto at some point.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Checking in

Plans have been long underway to get TMW,TMW dusted off and working again, and hopefully that'll happen soon, but for now a little tidbit from maybe my favourite general purpose pop culture website, the Onion AV Club: They included "Mom Says" in their list "Don’t try to wake me in the morning: 36 (mostly excellent) songs to soundtrack your suicide." And while that title makes it sound a bit broader, almost all the songs I know on the list are rather more explicitly about ending your own life. The relevant bit:

The depressives in Low understood the Bee Gees’ pain—they once covered “I Started A Joke” (as did Faith No More, but in a much funnier way). But Low has its own corner of the market dedicated to life’s darkest moments. "Mom Says," from The Curtain Hits the Cast, doesn’t reference death or even despair, but its vocals and lyrics are so haunting that when the final line comes — "Mom says we ruined her body" — it’s almost too much to take.

I'm torn: on the one hand, given the focus of much of the list, I'm not sure at all that "Mom Says" ought to be on that list (and it's certainly never made me think of suicide, although juxtaposing that thought with the closing line of the song makes me shudder a little). But on the other, I love that song and I love Low, and it's hard not to feel a little thrill at seeing them included like that. Partly (sadly?) for the validation of having someone else love what you love but more, I think, because there's this moment of someone reading this article might seek out Low and fall just as hard for them as I have.

I should also note that "Do You Know How to Waltz?" made their perfectly fine list of great 10 minute plus songs (although really AV Club, no "Station to Station" or "Yoo Doo Right"?). I don't know when the AV Club added a writer who loves Low, or whatever, but if it means they'll be showing up on lists like these with roughly the frequency that I'd put them on there, I'm happy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Glorious appearing

Yes, we're still trucking on here. I have no idea what happened to May, let alone most of June; I've been sick, but believe me this thing will continue to be intermittently updated at the very worst. Once I get some other commitments dealt with I am thinking of returning to a regular schedule to polish off the rest of Low's songography, because this is getting ridiculous! So keep watching those RSS feeds. But I've got quite the treat to tide you over until then...

Thanks again to my friend Erik, who pointed me to this ILM thread that contains two massive MP3s that contain a gobsmacking two and a half hour long set Low played at a festival in the Netherlands. Twenty-five songs, and check out that setlist:


David Dramm:
01. The Wheel of Catherina

02. Amazing Grace
03. Sunflower
04. In Metal
05. Candy Girl
06. Dinosaur Act
07. Kind of Girl
08. Point of Disgust
09. Whitetail
10. Canada
11. Belarus
12. Breaker
13. Silver Rider
14. Shots and Ladders


01. July
02. Pretty People
03. Take Your Time
04. Monkey
05. Everybody's Song
06. The Lamb / Blood of the Lamb
07. Violent Past
08. Laser Beam
09. In Silence
10. Always Fade
11. Dragonfly
12. Murderer
13. &20 (My Love (is for Free)) [I have no idea what this is yet, no]
14. Sandinista
15. When I Go Deaf (with David Dramm)

Partly as an act of contrition for being so slack, and partly because I'd do it anyways for my own edification, I'm going to get going on trying to break these two MP3s (each two hours long!) broken up into songs and post some uploads of the concert broken down properly once I've got it done. So like I say, keep watching those RSS feeds...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Little Argument With Myself

This is a song, I think, about being angry with yourself. Or at least, I'm angry with myself right now (I'm unemployed and struggling not to waste my days, and what do I do? Fall back into playing Civilization all afternoon and evening, goddamn it), and "Little Argument With Myself" is the Low song that springs to mind.

It's a brief song, occurring just after the most terrifying song on Trust (well, at least tied for most terrifying... we still have to get to "The Lamb"). Frequent blog interlocutor Inverarity (whose blog is better than this one, and not just because he's been more timely with updates) said in the comments here, "I find "John Prine"/"Little Argument with Myself" to be one of the most riveting and wrenching pairs in the catalog," and he's got a point. I mean, obviously this track is in some ways a relief when it comes on, but you can't really pull out of your defensive posture until "La La La Song," can you? But whereas "John Prine" is gnomically horrifying, sealing off even the possibility of a little light, "Little Argument With Myself" at least begins and ends gently.*

For once songmeanings might have actually added something to my understanding of a song - having been raised secular, I do worry sometimes that I miss Biblical stuff in Low songs, and one elwyn5150 tells me that the narrative here stems from Genesis 15:5. The song starts with just Alan intoning "I want to believe, yes I want to believe" twice, Mimi joining in the second time. Only a typically retiring guitar line underlies their voices. As the meat of the song starts up, that guitar at first ebbs out of view before coming in with greater force along with a tuba(!) and an increasingly strident vocal performance from Alan and Mimi, and eventually the rising tide of cymbals and a kick drum...

Just keep counting the stars
Like someday you'll find out
Just how many there are

They don't actually start yelling, but it's so intense I don't quite now how to represent it without capitals. In isolation it's actually still a pretty restrained song, and just as it crescendos everything dies back down for the two of them to repeat "but I want to believe, yes I want to believe / 'cause there's nothing as sad
as a man on his back / counting stars" as the track fades out.

I don't need to talk about how bitterly this narrative seems to treat faith and self-delusion, do I? It's an awfully dark take on the doubt Abraham must have felt when God told him how many kids he'd have, even for Low. And while it never gets that loud or that harsh, after the end of "John Prine" even the thought of someone yelling at you, even a little, is likely to interfere negatively with your bruised psyche. Alan is mostly yelling at himself (well, the narrator), but there's collateral damage. And he hates that he's just a man on his back counting stars, but there's something almost Kierkegaardian about the song (and honestly, I imagine there are ways in which Alan's faith is deeply indebted to Kierkegaard): He wants, or needs, to believe so that he's not just wasting his time, and the force of that belief, of that leap of faith, is sufficient for it to be true. I hope it's not the case that the middle section here isn't just a strawman version of the bluff empiricist, mocking the person of faith; given Alan's own doubts and fears, it deserves to be (and feels more) internal. And that, of course, is why it's a little argument with yourself, the struggle we have with the internal voices of doubt (whether it's about religion or not). Separate from Abraham and Genesis, the song is a wonderful metaphor for something we all do; I don't count stars, but there are things I do because I am basically taking it on faith that they are the right things for me to be doing with my life right now. And every so often part of your brain sneaks up and tells you, you're just a man on your back counting stars.

*(all that being said, I'm still terrifically curious to hear more about the connection Inverarity hears between the two songs...)