As the follow-up to Low’s universally acclaimed Things We Lost in The Fire, Trust comes with a set of expectations that might be impossible to meet. To the band’s credit, Low doesn’t just rehash the territory they covered on their previous album; instead, Trust goes in several different directions, mixing dark, sweeping epics with smaller, unpretentious songs and eclectic productions (courtesy of Tchad Blake) and arrangements. It’s Low’s most diverse work yet, but as it turns out, also their most uneven, which is somewhat surprising considering how their previous album was both consistently inventive and familiar. The chilly, almost ominous tone that pervades Trust is also something of a surprise, compared to the relatively optimistic Things We Lost in the Fire — the album-opener, “(That’s How You Sing) Amazing Grace,” subverts one of the most reassuring hymns, offering only the cold comfort of twangy guitars and Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker’s close, tentative harmonies. The band follows that song with “Canada,” which, with its dense, fuzzed-out guitars and propulsive drums, is the most rock song they’ve ever done, and especially unique considering the electronic leanings Low displayed awhile ago. Most of Trust follows this pattern, alternating a slow, sinuous song with a brighter or lighter one. When this chiaroscuro approach works, it’s impressive, but more often than not, it doesn’t quite come off. Though some of the album’s darker songs are compelling, such as the soulful, brooding “Time Is the Diamond,” “Little Argument With Myself,” and the droning finale “Shots and Ladders,” a few are just too long and dirgey. “I Am the Lamb,” an unusually anguished song even for Low, is too subdued to sustain attention at just over seven minutes, despite its slow-burning, funereal menace; likewise, “John Prine” has a doomed grandeur to it, but its eight-minute length doesn’t pay off. On the other hand, Trust’s lighter moments feel like breaths of fresh air compared to the more oppressive songs — the fragile, trippy prettiness of Parker’s “Tonight” and the sweet, campfire-ready “La La La Song” are equally beautiful and unpretentious, and all the more appealing because of that. It’s not until the second half of Trust that it really gets off the ground, but once it does, it makes the lengthy preamble worthwhile. The subtle harmonica and banjo flourishes on “In the Drugs” and the Phil Spector-esque production on “Last Snowstorm of the Year” mix Low’s steadfast melodic sensibilities with Blake’s colorful approach, while “Point of Disgust”‘s beautiful vocals and simple, piano-driven arrangement showcase the band’s spareness at its best. While Trust is uneven, its high points still outweigh the occasional slip into boring, dirgey territory. Fans will certainly agree that a slightly disappointing Low album still has more going for it than most other releases.
Heather Phares – All Music
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