Low Drums and Guns

To anyone who can predict this Duluth, MN band’s next move I tip my hat. Their last album and debut for Sub Pop, The Great Destroyer, was a giant, urgent slab of rock and harmony that saw Low trying to hit it out of the park. To their credit, their attempt to move beyond their slowcore roots worked admirably and it seemed Low had found a new energy. But, hold onto your toques, Drums and Guns eschews Destroyer’s unabashed melody and Low now find their inspiration in more insular experimentation. "Pretty People” is all open spaces and subtle feedback, while "Belarus” gives a taste of those beguiling Low harmonies but with some interesting electronic burbles. The best comes near the end, as "Take Your Time” puts a fresh spin on the raw emotions that Low have delivered so well in their career. But the final duo of "Murderer” and "Violent Past” is the masterstroke. Bringing the dual themes of violence and the military to the forefront, when Sparhawk exhorts, "You may need a murderer/someone to do your dirty work,” the goose bumps easily rise. But it’s the layered organ and drum machine on "Violent Past” that are truly sublime. With the gorgeous, simple vocal harmonies fighting to rise above the backing noise, it’s the perfect statement that Low are not only still around but are also still surprisingly vital. (Sub Pop)