Low, The Invisible Way

Sam Adams

By Sam Adams

on 03.19.13 in Reviews

The measured tempos and fragile harmonies of the Duluth, Minnesota, trio Low — core couple Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker plus bassist Steve Garrington, who joined in 2008 — have often concealed turmoil beneath their placid surface. But their 10th album, The Invisible Way, is their most sanguine in more than a decade, less tempestuous than 2005′s The Great Destroyer and resolving the marital tensions of 2011′s C’mon. Decamping from their own recording studio for producer Jeff Tweedy’s digs, they’ve made an album that feels more suited to the inside of a church than those they’ve actually recorded in one.

Their most sanguine in more than a decade

With Sparkhawk often playing acoustic guitar and Garrington spending as much time at the piano as on bass, The Invisible Way keeps a hushed profile, with Parker uncharacteristically handling nearly half of the lead vocals. Their lyrics, as usual, focus on the larger things: On “Plastic Cup,” Sparhawk turns a drug-test receptacle into a reminder that plastic will last forever, but bodies sooner or later turn back into dirt. On “Holy Ghost,” Parker strains for something to “feed my yearning for transcendence,” her tranquil vocals suggesting she’s well on her way to finding it. As with most Low songs, the spiritual undertones are there to take or leave, although it might be tough to come up with a secular reading for “Mother”‘s allusion to the Second Coming. Ultimately the songs don’t need a higher power to sound sanctified: The way Parker and Sparhawk’s voices vibrate as one when they harmonize is worth worshiping on its own.