The 10th album from Duluth, Minnesota’s elder statesmen of elegant, doomy indie is something of a restrained step back from the stormy Crazy Horse-ism’s of 2011’s excellent C’Mon. This could be partly down to frontman Alan Sparhawk channelling his grungier energies into his Retribution Gospel Choir side project, though it’s equally likely to be a result of the calming influence of producer Jeff Tweedy of Wilco.
Under Tweedy’s guidance The Invisible Way showcases a strikingly sparse yet warm side to the group, with the emphasis on acoustic instrumentation. Opener Plastic Cup is classic, brooding Low, indicative of Sparhawk’s increasingly elusive approach to lyric-writing. Piano and acoustic guitar are the dominant musical forces here, used to subtly colour the singer’s lyrical tangents.
The most striking development this time around is a growing focus on Mimi Parker as lead vocalist. Yet while it’s an interesting shift of band dynamics, her voice can be a little overpowering. Her delivery dominates the gorgeous, Roy Orbison-evoking shimmer of So Blue, all but killing the song; likewise on the album’s most upbeat track Just Make It Stop.
Seemingly incapable of making a bad album, Low still sound beautiful, but there’s a nagging feeling that The Invisible Way represents a slight drop-off in focus. Still, it’s a solid effort.