To be perfectly honest, I’d never heard of Soul Low until a member of the Milwaukee band contacted me last week, requesting I listen to its latest album, UNEASY. Thusly, I approached the eight-song effort with little-to-no expectations. Moments into the mysterious indie band’s first release in four years, I was proven a fool.
“Cliffs” aptly sets the table for what’s to come; a lonely guitar riff expands into a multi-harmony medley, complete with brass blaring triumphantly in under five minutes time. After surf song come undone, “Spooky Times,” third track “Take Time” lulls the listener with soft-spoken, lovey-dovey lyrics and a subtle air of Vampire Weekend before unfurling into an exodus of screams and howls. (The same can be said for “Son” at the album’s tail end.)
“Silence” tamps the, up to that point, bustling album down with soft strumming and delicate (pro narcotic) melodies. As short and dissimilar as the two-minute interlude may be, it serves to showcase Soul Low’s musical range and undeniable vocal chops. The same can be said for decided single “Wake Up Pains” – which trots out a walking bass line and an elegant horn interlude amid the singalongable words of the song’s pathetic-yet-prophetic protagonist (“So if you ask if I’m in love, well that depends”).
In UNEASY, Soul Low weaves a colorful and ambitious tapestry that bears slight comparisons to a varied cast of acts like Vampire Weekend, Ween, Wolf Parade and even a pinch of Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower. But the album also stands on its own through keen lyricism, admirable arrangement and distinct (yet practical) wavering vocals. If, like me, you’ve gone years without knowing the name Soul Low, it’s probably time you join in on the fun.
Soul Low will release UNEASY Saturday at Borg Ward Collective (823 W. National Ave.), headlining a show that also features American Wolf, Estates, and Straya. The show begins at 7 p.m. and costs $5 (cover includes a copy of Uneasy). For more information on the show, or to stream/pre-order Uneasy, go to Soul Low’s Bandcamp page.