The Low Anthem : Smart Flesh
From the first evocative notes of Ghost Woman Blues, Rhode Island collective The Low Anthem establish a pensive, lonely mood that permeates throughout their fourth album, Smart Flesh. Predominantly soft folk music with a modern country and western feel in some parts, the album is delicately and deliberately crafted to be a sonically rich experience, without being overbearing.
The reason behind this approach is their recording space - an old pasta sauce factory near their homes where they lived for three months while recording around 30 songs. Eleven ended up on Smart Flesh, but many failed due to poor acoustics in the factory, as it was impossible to play rowdier songs without the recorded sound becoming muddy.
However, the songs that made it onto Smart Flesh are haunting, as their reverberations through the factory are captured in the recording. Wire is particularly redolent, possibly for the woody notes of the clarinet liberally applied.
Although it's Boeing 737 that remains the standout song, and one of the few loud tracks on the album. Here, vocal tone is reminiscent of The Felice Brothers' self-titled album era but musically, it's heavier going with less narrative structure. The following song, Love And Altar, returns to the slower-paced, acoustic folk that primarily formulates the album. Whispy vocals - almost Fleet Foxes in style - dominate the barely there instrumentation.
Another standout is Hey, All You Hippies! Strongly accented vocals and the three-quarter time signature accentuate the country flavour as the song loafs towards its end. Tinny percussion also emphasizes the DIY elements of the music that The Low Anthem are renowned for.
Smart Flesh is undoubtedly a slow burner, but its richly layered instrumentation and unique vocals provide enough interest to sustain the slow-tempo lulls between the lush oases of tracks like Boeing 737 and Hey All You Hippies!
Best track: Hey All You Hippies!
If You Like This, You'll Like: Little Ann THE FELICE BROTHERS, Hurt JOHNN CASH.
In A Word: Contemplative