11:22 AM CDT, March 19, 2013
3.5 stars (out of 4)
Over two decades, Low has maintained a singular path marked by disquieting serenity, deceptive fragility, occasional outbursts of noise, and songs that ponder the unanswerable. "The Invisible Way" (Sub Pop) tweaks the approach. The sparse songs incorporate more piano from bassist Steve Garrington, which brings out some of the group's latent gospel overtones. And the ratio of lead vocals from drummer Mimi Parker increases.
The songwriting remains acute and evocative, whether creating a whole world around the image of a "Plastic Cup" or a cryptic reference to the late Byrds bluegrass virtuoso "Clarence White." Wilco's Jeff Tweedy handles production, but he mostly stays out of the way; the trio again puts a premium on space and intimacy in the arrangements, which works especially well this time because of the uniformally high quality of the melodies.
Guitarist Alan Sparhawk keeps things conversational when he sings lead, but there is a tartness to his lyrics that can surprise and confound. When Parker takes over, she sounds absolutely at home in the hymn-like "Holy Ghost" and "To Our Knees" -- she dispenses comfort, shaded beautifully by her heart-beat drumming. But she also comes to the fore on this album's anthems. The rising tide of "So Blue" and the countryish plea "Just Make it Stop" suggest that when all else fails, there is redemption to be found in the beauty of a voice as singular as this.
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