The Austin Chronicle

Phases & Stages

Reviewed by Doug Freeman, July 3, 2009, Music

The Low Anthem

Oh My God, Charlie Darwin (Nonesuch)

Just when it seems that indie Americana has devoured most of the indigenous territory at its disposal, the Low Anthem rises from the underbrush. Reissued by Nonesuch, the Rhode Island trio's 2008 sophomore disc evolves with sequencing that emphasizes the album's ability to trek equally compelling through stark haunted valleys and raucously stomped hillsides. Secular hymn "Charlie Darwin" opens with frontman Ben Knox Miller trilling a gentle Fleet Foxes falsetto but slowly drifts darker through "To Ohio" and the Leonard Cohen-esque "Ticket Taker." While quiet contemplation on "(Don't) Tremble" and "To the Ghosts Who Write History Books" allows Miller's songwriting to emerge most effectively, the furious infusion of "The Horizon Is a Beltway" and ragged "Home I'll Never Be" growl Tom Waits by way of the Pogues. The Low Anthem finds the balance of apocalypse and subtlety sought by the Avett or Felice Brothers but never wrangled so effectively.


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