Low ages gracefully with new album ‘Ones and Sixes’

Photo credit to Creative Commons

Jean Marques // Staff Writer

Low is not the type of band to listen to on a bright sunny day or at a party, the pace of their songs is too slow to allow that.  Low is the type of band you play when you want to cry but the tears won’t come out at 2 a.m. when sleep is no longer a possibility.

In the 90s when bands were trying to be faster, louder and more aggressive, Low served as a complete counterpoint to that attitude. For many of their earlier shows, audience members would sit down on the floor to listen to them. Early critics would label them as “slowcore” or “sadcore”, and with the exception of Mark Kozelek of “Red House Painters”, they are the only act from that sub-category that have remained relevant today.

With over twenty years and eleven studio albums to show, Low’s consistency is admirable. Their ability to maintain such a distinct musical style has led them to have a very dedicated fan base, but at the cost of predictability.

The main issue with Low’s last album “The Invisible Way” is that many of the songs become a chore to listen to due to the lack of instrumental variation.  The decision to draft the Wilco frontman, Jeff Tweedy, to produce the album led to a dull Americana-influenced sound.

“Ones and Sixes” marks an interesting new direction for the band. Many of the characteristics that define a Low album are still there. The tempo is slow, the mood is melancholy and their vocal harmonies are as strong as ever. What differentiates this album from their previous work is the seamless combination of acoustic instrumentation and electronics.

The album starts off with two of the best songs that Low has recorded in years, “Gentle” and “No Comprende”. Both of these songs have electronic elements in their percussion that add a slight grittiness to their sound, which is especially helpful considering the minimalistic arrangements. What makes these tracks so great is the intense climax towards the end, where a thunderous explosion of amplified bass overwhelms the listener. This prevents the songs from becoming background music by commanding attention through a calculated use of dynamics.

The rest of the songs on the album follow a similar routine to varying degrees of success. “Lies” and “Kid in the Corner” act as a catchy escape from the cold and icy mood while songs like “No End” feel more like rehashed versions of older songs with a slightly different recording style.

“Ones and Sixes” is the result of musical veterans attempting to enhance their sound with modern recording techniques and electronics. While Low may be showing signs of their age, their readiness to embrace change will assure them a spot in the world of modern independent music for quite some time.


Standout Tracks: “Gentle”, “No Comprende”, “Spanish Translation”, “Kid in the Corner”

Overall Rating: 3.5

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