Death has never sounded so lovely on folk/Americana's quartet's latest
The Low Anthem had death on its collective mind. Its fine new album, “Smart Flesh,” out today (Feb. 22) opens with a visitation from lonely ghost and closes 10 songs later with a seven-minute meditation about slipping off this earth.
In between, there are many other references to loss, including a nod to 9/11 (“I was in the air when the towers came down in a bar on the 84th floor” in the musically rowdy “Boeing 737”) and a man laments not taking out a loved one’s remains following his/her cremation on “I’ll Take Out Your Ashes,” cloaked in the sense of guilt that can linger long after someone has passed.
The latter is not a topic you hear about in a song every day and that’s half of The Low Anthem’s charm. The Rhode Island quartet, who originally came together at Brown University, are all multi-instrumentalists, switching off on more than 30 instruments on “Smart Flesh,” most of them acoustic. Anything can be called into a service, from a saw to a transistor radio playing in the background to add ambience. All four members harmonize, but Ben Knox Miller carries the lead vocals with his haunting, spare, lovely voice. He can sound as country as the day is long on “Apothecary Love” or otherworldly on “Love and Altar.” As with 2008’s “Oh My God, Charlie Darwin,” The Low Anthem make no concessions to pop radio or current trends. They are delightfully unburdened by trying to fit into anyone’s preconceived notion of how they should sound. To that end, they recorded the album primarily in an abandoned pasta sauce factory in Rhode Island, with additional recording conducted in a small, garage-like facility to counterbalance the hollow hugeness of the empty factory.
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