Thursday, July 15th, 2021

Low – Days Like These

No nominative determinism here.


John Pinto: Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk continue their 25+ year war on your volume knob. I still prefer their more narrative turns to the near-platitudes of “Days Like These,” but those blown-apart truisms are a good match for starkly compressed vocals and wildly clipping synths. Makes me feel like I’m being terrorized by a faulty in-ceiling speaker system at a Great Clips.

Nortey Dowuona: The powerful voices of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker rattle out the speakers, minted by synths, then fade, allowing the synth clouds to roll in, a delicate guitar plays, then Alan and Mimi roar in, bathed in cloudy synths, loping bass and crumbling white noise, that fades once more as the synths hover and a hidden kick drum lopes below the River of synth bass, Alan and Mimi softly interjecting. A lithe synth line shimmers through the clouds, opening up the sky and spreading the dimming sunlight on the river of bass and the hidden kick pulsing below. Alan and Mimi gently intone from the heavens.

Jeffrey Brister: I already knew this was going to score above [6] from the intro’s dense harmonies alone. And then it breaks in an even weirder, even more transcendent direction by adding that crushing compression that makes it feel like Sleigh Bells doing gospel. The back half lost me by being too aimless, but that first half. What a thing to behold.

Thomas Inskeep: Messy, smeared, unfocused, not what I expected from Low, and not what I wanted, either. Kind of actively off-putting.

Dorian Sinclair: The first ten seconds of “Days Like These” introduce a melodic theme that I hope you like! Because you will hear it an additional nine times over the next two minutes, with essentially no variation. The production changes, but not enough to prevent the essential same-iness of the melodic figure from becoming overwhelming. At that two-minute mark, the band abruptly shifts to a somewhat more interesting ambient and exploratory mode, but again one that dramatically overstays its welcome — it’s another three and a half minutes before the song actually ends, with little to justify its duration. If the intro were about a quarter as long as it, and the second section maybe half its current length, “Days Like These” could be quite interesting; as it is, it collapses under the weight of repetition.

Ian Mathers: It’s worth pointing out that Low have literally been making (excellent) music for longer than a decent proportion of the people who currently appear on the Jukebox have been alive. Given the labels etc. they’ve worked with I doubt anyone ever told them to get back in the studio and go write a single or something, but even if someone did they’re long past the point of listening. So they know exactly what they’re doing, and the wildly successful experimentation of 2018’s Double Negative no doubt only reinforced the lesson that you might as well follow your muse. It’s entirely possible that, as with Double Negative, “Days Like These” will prove to be one of the less direct tracks on HEY WHAT (hell, the last time they led with the likes of “Dancing and Blood” when everyone knows “Poor Sucker” had a much better shot at the Hot 100). It certainly confirms that the band and producer BJ Burton (who also worked on the last two albums) are continuing to take these songs and see just how productively noise and the studio can beat the hell out of them. One possible difference for those who’ve followed Low’s pandemic shows (incomplete listing here, they’re still intermittently going) is that this time we’ve had the chance to hear the songs performed more straightforwardly live before hearing what happens to them, and the result is maybe even more striking. I certainly knew the first half of “Days Like These” was powerfully declamatory, but even after Double Negative I didn’t quite foresee its surges being crushed into radiance in quite this way. And the sometimes burbling ambience of its second half, that on repeated listens starts feeling more foreboding than anything else, is totally new. Double Negative was a record, as they said, “at the bottom of the lake”, one that felted suited to the very dark moment of 2018. Of course, in 2018 none of us saw 2020 coming, but it feels strangely fitting that instead of going further into the dark “Days Like These” at least starts by blasting us with light. “No, you’re never gonna feel complete / No, you’re never gonna be released” they sing, but often you have to accept where you are to start making progress.

Tim de Reuse: Not just rough around the edges, but rough all the way through; the abrasive sound design, yes, but also that there’s no chorus to return to, and no clean there-and-back structure. And, yeah, the juxtaposition of “angelic harmony” versus “grungy noise” is a little trite, but when you commit to the bit so hard that you’re willing to distort your vocals to the point of incomprehensibility I’m willing to admit that it works in your favor. I mean, a song trying to describe the modern era ought to have something in it that’s not easy to listen to, right?

Edward Okulicz: I really go back on forth on this. On one hand, the way it’s recorded is deliberately a blast to the ears, deliberately confronting and awkward and difficult. But there comes a point when you make a statement by being bad, you’re still being kind of bad. I always like their voices together but this tries my patience too much.

Katherine St Asaph: Those first few seconds terrified me, like I hadn’t turned on Low but some glee-club recording. Fortunately, they aren’t indicative at all: the lyrics become steadily more nihilistic, as the arrangement becomes a moody cosmic drift.

Reader average: [8] (2 votes)

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One Response to “Low – Days Like These”

  1. missed this but easily a 8 or 9 from me!!

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