It’s been quite a long time since we’ve heard from folkpsychrockers The Low Anthem. Just like 2011’s Smart Flesh was recorded in an old pasta sauce factory, 2016’s eyeland came into being in an old abandoned movie theater. That probably means that the album will be a visionary effort at the very least.
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- eyeland by The Low Anthem
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The Low Anthem like to boldly produce where no other artist has produced. Their last record, 2011’s indie folk fest of poignancy ‘Smart Flesh’, was produced in an abandoned pasta sauce warehouse, and it seems they’ve only now been able to find a spot idiosyncratic enough to warrant a new album: the lower-case ‘eyeland’ comes at you from an equally abandoned cinema. I’ll be honest: neither record feels like the calm before a storm in a zombie film.
If anything, ‘eyeland’ is a gently chaotic hodgepodge of squeaky-clean slowcore and emotive synth-pop bluster. Opener “in eyeland” is hushed and sparkly in its sparse instrumentation, as if the band are emphasising the Low in their name, while “her little cosmos” phases different volumes in and out of a song that sounds like Cocteau Twins meeting the Asthmatic Kitty roster. A bit of ambience is needed to wash it into “the pepsi moon”, which suggests the band the Low Anthem are most predominantly known for being: a lush and minutely supplemented indie folk band.
I don’t mind the Low Anthem drawing from a lot of different genres: I just want them to give their pastiches space. “behind the airport mirror” is a perfect distillation of their sparsity and their experimentation, positioning a crackling beat so that you can hear the might of that ‘abandoned theatre’ -- they add to it perfectly and modestly by using a riff a la the Cure and a vocal performance as gorgeous as Perfume Genius. The folksy guitar of "in the air hockey fire" works well with the drum machine its paired with, because its tinniness feels respectfully light, like Beach House failing to get hyped.
It's best when the Low Anthem don't rev up -- drum machines and big synths work alongside acoustic strums and lonely riffs, but 'eyeland' sounds best as a minimal bottle show.
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