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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Take Your Time

I can't think of a lot of bands that have been around for a number of years, put out a number of records, and are still interesting/relevant to a sizable, modern audience. There are a few I can think of, but Low seems to fit the criteria as of late with me.

Formed in 1993, the band has released eight proper albums, a slew of EPs and singles, a couple live records, a box set, and a DVD. Pretty impressive, but for so long, it seemed like they had only one vibe. Their songs were not just slow and calm, but the dirge-like feel found on them was easy to dismiss. For me, I wasn't too impressed by what I heard for this very reason. The saving grace was Alan and Mimi's vocal harmonizing. But that wasn't completely enough for me to dig into any of their records.

Well, thanks to a recommendation (and liking the sound clips I heard) on a recent Sound Opinions podcast, I decided to check out their latest, Drums and Guns. No, this isn't the most cheerful music, but it's not bedtime music either. As a matter of fact, it's about the subtleties here. As much as I am one to avoid electronic-tinged music, the electronics found on this record are pretty melodic. They provide some very nice atmosphere. Alan and Mimi's vocals are pretty great as usual and there are plenty of different moods on here.

But all this gets me to think: this band is still putting out interesting stuff and they're on their eighth record. Now is it me, or does this seem weird? I hear all the time about how some band's first or second album is better than anything else in their catalog. I'm well aware that lightning is very hard to bottle, but a few modern bands are on a hot streak. There's no winning formula here, but I can't help but notice this is prevalent with a number of bands that formed in the Nineties. Be it Death Cab for Cutie, Belle & Sebastian or Wilco, the connecting glue is the long haul.

Now I'm not dissing bands that are only a few years old here, but I wonder if we'll be talking about Voxtrot's fifth record in high regard as their debut material. In a day and age when a number of people are pulling out the proverbial knives on their self-titled debut album, it's something I think about. Is this just a changing of the times?

I don't believe any band has a plan to remain relevant, but I get the feeling certain bands are willing to endure and progress at the same time. Of course, the question of popular relevance is decided more by the fans and critics. That equation is really difficult to understand.

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