The Great Destroyer (Sub Pop)

It's no surprise that the new album from a band just signed to Sub Pop should be referred to in critical quarters as "a rock record." But although Low isn't a rock band, it turns out that the trio that once wrote languid essays in atmospherics has become the most emotionally and musically direct band on the diverse roster of its new label. Guitarist and singer Alan Sparhawk's voice, raised above a murmur and past a croon, is closer to Matthew Sweet's than Leonard Cohen's. Combined with drummer Mimi Parker's honeyed harmonies and the band's ragged, folky tone and newly increased tempo, the result is something like actual pop-rock. Main songwriter Sparhawk once wrote songs so pent-up that they added faint new shades to the word sublime. But The Great Destroyer is filled with passionate, sweet, searing lyricism. If more than half of the album's thirteen songs aren't covered by other bands within a few years, it would only be out of respect for the originals.

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