When you really are in the mood to “listen” to music put on a Low Anthem record. That is to say, don’t put it on as background music or when you are partying with friends. It’s not that the Rhode Island band plays overly serious music, but it is music that seriously needs your full attention to be appreciated.
“Smart Flesh” is the follow-up to their hugely successful second album, “Oh My God, Charlie Darwin,” and continues the band’s trip into the ethereally intricate calm. Yes, they do break out occasionally, but “Smart Flesh” was recorded in an abandoned pasta factory in Providence, and the ghostly beautiful sounds of acoustic guitar, oboe, organ, and the like ring and echo off its empty walls.
This is immediately apparent on the opening track, the haunting “Ghost Woman Blues.” “Apothecary Love,” one of my favorite songs here, sounds like James Taylor meets Neil Young, with its lilting country melody.
The blending of voices of Ben Knox Miller, Jeff Prystowsky, Jocie Adams, and Mat Davidson is what really sets the band apart. And each is a talented musician, playing multiple instruments – Adams, for instance, plays oboe, the crotales, and even electric bass.
Check out the multiple oboe instrumental “Wire.” On “I’ll Take Out Your Ashes,” plucking banjo mandolin backs the singular voice of Knox Miller singing as an old man: “For time just ain’t no healer, with your ashes sittin’ there/I know you have been counting on me/Ever since your sad cremation day/I scanned all your Alzheimer’s poetry for all that I wished that it would say/It’s a sad and guilty feeling/Since I did not take out your ashes/Whatever I was fearing, never came to passing.”
Put on your headphones to listen to the hushed “Love and Alter” and the title track for a real sonic treat.
As stated, the band breaks out and rocks on a pair of tunes, the 9/11-inspired “Boeing 737” (opening line: “I was in the air when the towers came down/ In a bar on the 84th floor”) and a raucous guitar and organ “Hey, All You Hippies.”
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