Low, "Things We Lost In The Fire" [Kranky]
Just because Low's music is slow and often pretty does not mean that it is fey or without substance. It is, in fact, this wonderful trio's deliberateness - both emotionally and musically - that makes its music some of the most important and unique today. Their last album, the nearly infallible Secret Name, was a bold step, juxtaposing Low's prettiest pop songs yet with more spare and jarring numbers. Things We Lost is just as daring - maybe more so - for disguising itself as Low's pure pop album; it's got a certain fluidity of motion that they haven't attempted before - perhaps that's just because it's weighted more heavily with Low's uniquely melancholy version of the pop song.
Those songs, in the tradition of their Sub Pop single "Venus" and songs like "Immune," from Secret Name, occupy a more prevalent space on Things We Lost than they did on albums past. "Dinosaur Act" and "Sunflower" shimmer with hope, while even the spare, sad-sounding "Laser Beam," sung with almost no backing instrumentation by drummer Mimi Parker, comes across as hopeful, not hopeless. The band's first album was I Could Live In Hope - it seems they've truly found a home there.
Even the songs that sort of threaten to turn depressing ("Whore" and the magnificent "Closer"), take an upturn instead, brandishing a classical-sounding optimism. An ominous 45-second instrumental threatens to break up TWLITF's consistently magical beauty, but it only serves to make the album's best and final track, "In Metal," that much more wistfully sunny (the amazing song is about its two singers' one-year-old baby, Hollis, whom the liner notes credit with "squeaks, yells.").
Add to that a wealth of guest musicians to add texture, Steve Albini (who also produced Secret Name) to give it a dry, perfectly-balanced sound, and the band itself, who have bested themselves in the songwriting department again, and you have the first, and probably only, perfect album of 2001.
- Josh Modell
Things We Lost in the Fire on Amazon.com