The Low Lows - Shining Violence
Label: Misra Records
Release Date: September 9, 2008
The Low Lows are not entirely country but they are not quite modern pop, instead they fit somewhere in between making a niche that allows them to show their country roots and soft avant-pop facets. The band is quite an assembly of horn players namely Kullen Fuchs on trumpet and vibraphone, Kelli Christian on trumpet and bells, and Nick Wallenchuk on trombone. The horn section is often understated in the tracks and moves subliminally through the passages, but what does stand out are the lead vocals of P.L. Noon, which have a lulling pitch relatable to The Bee Gees lead singer Barry Gibb, before the group’s disco-phase that is. Much of The Low Lows latest release, Shining Violence has a melancholic overcast shrouded in ‘60s tinged soft-pop and muted tones.
Guitarists Noon and Bryan Crowell along with drummer Jeremy Wheatley create a sullen mood in the album imprinting in the listener’s mind a picture of a lone man riding on his horse in the dark through barren pastures. It is unfathomable that an album could make someone see this image just by listening to its music, but Shining Violence projects this vision in the mind vividly. The avant-folk casts in “Disappeared” pass through with the tenderness of whispering winds, and the soft-pop dusters in “Modern Romance” produce weeping effects and fleshy tones made of velvety textured petals. The sliding chords of “Elizabeth Pier” have a whining intonation as Noon’s lyrics resound with a cerebral versing, “I am a black-hulled freighter / Moored low in the water / Off Elizabeth Pier / It’s all Mott St. ghost shadows / Sliding sidewalks / Shadow of ghost shadow here.” I cannot even attempt to interpret these lyrics, but I have to say that poetry like this is rare and motivated by clandestine feelings that desire to be vented.
A general theme that courses through the lyrics and mood of the music is the presence of tragedy and sorrow being exhumed, exemplified by the soft slithering motions of “Raining in Eva” with an undertow of gently vibrating horns emblematic of music for a funeral procession. The song “Sparrow” injects a bit more life into the album with chorus parts densely populated by ravishing deluges which succumb to intervals of shallow pools and wilted tones forked by a steady flow of marching band drumbeats in the underbelly. “Tigers” also has intricate passageways with hauntingly melodic neon switches that flicker from theatrical to countrified guitar licks. Noon’s hushed vocal wails are cloaked in gentle embers and softly glowing harmonies. Country-folk tones also ornament “It May Be Low” alongside the trippy harmonica ringlets, and “Five Ways I Didn’t Die” patched in ‘50s rockabilly washers. The final track “Honey” is a sparse melody with Noon’s vocals winding around the acoustic guitar which become coated in films of spacey synth layers as the song progresses.
Shining Violence is The Low Lows second release. It’s predecessor, Fire on the Bright Sky usurped every song idea from the band that was accessible to them from the surface. They seem to have dug deeper into themselves for the recording of Shining Violence, which integrates a subliminal sphere rotating in the music’s content. The music and lyrics unearth sounds and lyrics that have the voicing of the subconscious, eager to be heard and validated and showing discontent with its present condition. What better way to satisfy that hidden voice then to give it a microphone, which is what The Low Lows have done.