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The Low Anthem: Smart Flesh


The Low Anthem

Album: Smart Flesh
Label: Nonesuch

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From the first echoing chords of the opener, “Ghost Woman Blues,” Smart Flesh announces itself as a Low Anthem album much in the vein of the band’s excellent 2008 LP, Oh My God Charlie Darwin. The pastoral, baroque nature of songs like “Love And Altar” and “Golden Cattle” reveals a band that knows the sound it’s most at ease with and doesn’t seem eager to push itself too far outside of that comfort zone. Similar themes recycle themselves here, too, as Ben Knox Miller uses his nasal croon to express loss on “I’ll Take Out Your Ashes,” lamenting the passing of a loved one along with a sense of isolation. There are louder moments among the hushed odes, like the stomping, 9/11-invoking anthem “Boeing 737” and the Dylan-esque “Hey, All You Hippies,” which is driven along by a rollicking organ. Still, Miller and company mostly relish their old-time folk approach: How else to explain a song title like “Apothecary Love”? The formula works well enough, but if there’s a drawback to the album, it’s that there aren’t many signs of growth musically. It’s not all that troublesome, but it would be nice to hear the band stretch out beyond its rustic bubble just a bit.