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Christmas

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Album Review

In their liner notes, Low hopes that their fans, "...will consider this our gift to you. Best wishes." Those who are already fans should be more than pleased with this little morsel. Throughout Christmas Low's trademark simplicity of instrumentation allows the listener to hear every nuance and crystalline detail. Beginning with "Just Like Christmas," we find the band at their poppiest with a drum sound and sleigh bells worthy of a restrained Phil Spector session. Mimi Parker's warm vibrato makes an irresistible mantra of the titular refrain. The album highlight "Blue Christmas" would have been doomed to a kitschy fate in most hands, but Mimi Parker's voice captures the broken-hearted melancholy of the original while eschewing any obvious Elvis references. The cover of "Silent Night" doesn't fare as well; the band fails to add anything of note to this holiday standard. Christmas also includes several songs that could alienate more secular listeners, especially "If You Were Born Today" which is chock-full of biblical references and paints an extremely despairing scenario on the fate of a contemporary Christ. Low does a rare thing in today's indie-rock milieu by refusing to survive on cynicism and worldliness alone. Whether or not one ascribes to their beliefs, the heartfelt and reverential beauty of their sound and lyrics are perfect for the holiday season. Christmas is a rich treat in a tiny package.

Biography

Formed: 1993 in Duluth, MN

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Formed in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1993, Low were perhaps the slowest of the so-called "slowcore" bands — delicate, austere, and hypnotic, the trio's music rarely rose above a whisper, divining its dramatic tension in the unsettling open spaces created by the absence of sound. Initially comprising the husband-and-wife team of guitarist/vocalist Alan Sparhawk and drummer/vocalist Mimi Parker along with bassist John Nichols, Low began as an experimental reaction to the predominance of grunge. Producer...
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