Low - review of Secret Name
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Low, Secret Name (Kranky)
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In this world of MTV cut commercials and CNN overload, we have all but forgotten how to stop and take note of nuances and subtleties. The world is a blur of information that trains us and our thinking patterns to be in a hurry to get more and more information stuffed into our brains. Faster, quicker, bigger are motto's to live by and adhere to as our lives become mega-sized and we find ourselves lost in a world where we communicate so much that nothing ends up being said. It's in this world of media-excess that we just have to be happy to find bands like Duluth's Low that create rhythms and songs so slow and measured that you have no choice but to stop and really take in what is being said both lyrically and musically.

Low has been fighting the good fight since '94s "I Could Live in Hope" (Vernon Yard) and have yielded a collection of singles, EP's, and full lengths that are nothing short of amazing. I have seen them shut up a room of 200 talking people with nothing but guitar, bass, small drum kit, and singers Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker's beautiful voices. You could hear a pin drop by the end of the song.

But what is even more amazing to me is that with such a basic canvas this trio of musicians can paint more stunning aural landscapes with each release. 1996's "The Curtain Hits the Cast" (Vernon Yard) was just short of perfect. I thought that certainly they could not do better. But with the just released "Secret Name" (Kranky) they up the stakes and deliver yet another gem that shines like a diamond in this world of dull stones that we are fed on the radio today.

The album starts with the sparse "I Remember," showing Low at what they do best, stripping bare song structure and making the barest bones accessible to the listener. What follows is a revelation for the band that always had a dark side (see the devastating "Don't Understand"). They have made one of their most "pretty" records to date, utilizing acoustic guitars and a string section that appears on several songs. "Starfire" is one of their fullest compositions to date, while the nakedness of "Soon" takes us deeper into the heart of the band like never before. But the real gold here is songs like the incredible "2-Step" and "Lion/Lamb," easily two of the most beautiful songs Low has ever written.

One day people will remember to take time to read a book or listen as the breeze blows across the hills, and patience will be a virtue that we'll be glad bands like Low have reminded us to cherish.--Christopher Anderson