n 1993, the acclaimed Duluth-based indie act Low — currently founding members and married couple Alan Sparhawk (guitar, vocals) and Mimi Parker (drums) with Steve Garrington (bass) — are considered pioneers of slowcore, an indie rock sub-genre featuring slowed down tempos and minimalist-leaning arrangements. Despite the fact that the acclaimed indie act has gone through series of lineup changes throughout their history, they’ve consistently disapproved of the slowcore term, eventually shrugging off its strictures altogether while continuing to cement their reputation for a magnetic and powerful stage show centered around Sparhawk’s and Parker’s harmonies and heartbreakingly gorgeous material.
ne of the most uncompromisingly defiant, brazenly abrasive, challenging yet stunning albums of their expansive catalog. The trio worked with Burton on 2015’s Ones and Sixes and as the story goes, they wanted to go further with Burton and his aesthetic, to see what someone who as Sparhawk has described as “a hip-hop guy” could do to push their music in a radically new directions. Instead of obsessively writing, revising and rehearsing in Duluth before heading to the studio, the band went to Eau Claire, WI with rough ideas and sketches for one of the most collaborative writing sessions they’ve ever had with a producer.
During those sessions, they’d build pieces up, break them down and build up them up again until each individual song found its purpose and force. Over the two year writing and recording sessions, the outside world slide deeper into madness and instability — and Double Negative may be a document of our peculiar moment: the material is at times loud, contentious, chaotic and jarring. Sparhawk’s and Parker’s vocals sometimes seem to be desperately fighting against the noise and chaos, other times hidden with it.
The acclaimed Duluth-based act’s 13th album HEY WHAT is slated for a September 10, 2021 release through their longtime label home Sub Pop Records. Continuing their ongoing collaboration with producer BJ Burton for the third time, HEY WHAT reportedly finds the trio focusing on their craft, staying out of the fray and holding fast to their faith to find new ways to express the discord and delight of being a living human being, to turn the duality of our existence into hymns we can share. The album’s ten songs are individually built by their own undeniable hooks — and are turbocharged by the vivid textures surrounding them.
HEY WHAT’s first single “Days Like These” is a perfect example of what we should expect from the album’s overall sound and aesthetic: Disorientating and hushed passages with strummed guitar fight for space between layers of noise and distortion that accrete, build up and fall apart. The messiness is all held together by Sparhawk’s and Parker’s gorgeous yet slightly AutoTuned harmonies, seemingly serving as a lifeline from the shore, thrown to the poor soul drowning in the breakers. But at its core, the song is a yearning plea for meaning and peace in a world that’s completely mad and rarely makes much sense.
Directed by the band’s longtime friend and collaborator, director Karlos Rene Ayala, the recently released video for “Days Like These” is a stylish yet intimate look into the daily life of an older Black man in an extremely White place. While he may be lonely, this gentleman has his dignity, humanity and faith — seen with a Cadillac plastered with Biblical passages and time at a local church.