Album Review: Low’s Ones and Sixes an Emotional Journey

Low. Ones and Sixes promo. photo Zoran Orlic Low. Ones and Sixes promo. photo Zoran Orlic

Although I wouldn’t classify this as a great summer album, Low’s upcoming gloomy release, Ones and Sixes, seems like it’s just in time for the changing seasons: it feels a little weird listening to it while sitting in 30 degree weather with the sun blazing down on me, yet still it sounds pretty amazing. Deep, crisp and cathartic, Low’s newest addition to their 22 year span of recordings boasts a blending of experience and nuance, somehow managing to radiate a succession of passions through its 12 tracks. I never would have imagined myself impressed, nay, ecstatic about a band consisting of a practicing Mormon couple, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, plus their bassist/guitarist Steve Garrington, but here I am, equally surprised and slightly disappointed in myself for judging too quickly.

Emerging from depths of 1990s, which is in and of itself a testament to not only their experience as musicians but also demonstrating their capacity to evolve, the Minnesota indie rocker’s demonstrate a surprising quietness for the world of rock. Perhaps that is what makes them unique; when they first started playing at clubs who were rather inattentive to them, they would turn the volume down instead of up, a tactic which seemingly worked for attracting attention. This unobtrusive quality is apparent through Low’s 11th studio album, although I’m not sure I’d call it a calming record.

Ones and Sixes album cover 2015

Ones and Sixes album cover 2015

The album opens with ‘Gentle’, at once sensual and perhaps even sexually charged, Low proves from the get go that this band means business… and not for a second during the album was I ever feeling bored or apathetic. Although it could be argued that any band delving into their own deeply personal undertakings is a key ingredient to good lyricism, it does seems rather uncommon that those dealt in Ones and Sixes come from the perspectives of parents. Indeed, the album’s honorary track ‘No Comprende’ explores the arguments or misunderstandings that evolve perhaps irrationally within a household and the attempts made at solving them: “our house is on fire/You keep me talking in a circle […] You can’t just throw it in the trailer/You’ve got to stack it so it’s stable”.

Chilling and simultaneously soothing, Parker and Sparhawk’s harmonic vocals lead the listener into a symphony of personal confusion and profound uncertainty, managing to take us on a journey through the emotions the different songs travel through, some perhaps not providing answers but allowing and the listeners and themselves to indulge in the confusion and mixed emotions rather than simply ignoring them.

This album is definitely being filed under the repeatedly-listened to part of my musical repertoire.

Ones and Sixes is gets released on September 11 via Sub Pop. Low plays in Montreal with Andy Shauf on Tuesday Sept 22 at Bar Le Ritz.