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Album review: The Low Anthem's 'Smart Flesh'

February 21, 2011 |  7:30 pm

LowAnthemSmartFlesh It's too bad the Foo Fighters already called an album "Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace," because that title perfectly describes the new effort by the Low Anthem. To record the follow-up to 2008's buzz-building "Oh My God, Charlie Darwin," this Rhode Island-based folk-rock outfit set up shop in a former pasta-sauce factory outside Providence; the group's goal was to capture an explicitly handcrafted vibe not much in vogue in these days of Pro Tools and Auto-Tune.

Fortunately, what the Low Anthem accomplished neatly transcends such a conservative impulse: Excepting a couple of Arcade Fire-style stompers, "Smart Flesh" is a gorgeous, inventively arranged set of reverb-rich roots ballads in which the music's frayed edges add emotional weight, not who-cares credibility. Give hushed, slow-rolling songs like "I'll Take Out Your Ashes" and "Apothecary Love" time to properly unspool and you'll find yourself swept up in the band's old-fashioned tales of romance and mortality. The soul-endangering threat of our current man-machine moment is unlikely to register.

-- Mikael Wood

The Low Anthem
"Smart Flesh"
Three and a half stars (Out of four)