Low Red Land - Dog's Hymns (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Low Red Land

Dog's Hymns (2008)


The use of the internet to discover new music has been a mixed blessing for me. It's easier than ever to discover new bands. With a click you can find song samples, tour dates and discographies. Another click and you can buy CDs, MP3s and records. In this day and age I have a playlist a week long and a "listen to" list just as long. With such a huge influx of music from around the world, I'm less apt to simply go to a rec center hosting a showcase of local bands I'm unfamiliar with. While the cascade of new music I discover tends to keep me occupied enough that I don't miss those days, catching a local opener like Low Red Land, opening for William Elliot Whitmore, can make you realize some of the best music happens in your own backyard.

Low Red Land play a mix somewhere between Shinobu, Fugazi and the Weakerthans (though I've also heard fellow Canadians the Constantines put in their place). That is, to say, they have a blend of smooth, sincere lyrics and melodies and abrasive distortion and imagery. All of these elements are perfectly encompassed in their sophomore full length, Dog's Hymn's. In only 10 songs (11, really) Low Red Land manages to coax you from a safe and comfortable spot to a place of introspection and uncertainty. Better yet, they make you enjoy every step of the way.

The album opener, and title track, is as straightforward and subdued as the album gets. Vocalist Ben Thorne's voice is scratchy and almost unsure at the opening of the track, as he sings over ambient guitar and drums. As it progresses the song picks up steam and assistance from co-vocalist Neil Thompson and by the song's end, Low Red Land has picked up to full speed. The song proves a fair example for the album, with each song taking the listener a little more outside of the structure that was initially established, making it a little harsher, a little louder and more lyrically diverse. This comes to a head with the album's final songs, starting with "Hunt Song," which features Thorne and Thompson sharing screaming duties over a steady cascade of thick basslines and crashing cymbals. This leads to the seven-plus minute "Wovoka" that is nothing short of a sonic cacophony about a historic Native American, featuring singing, screaming and top-notch instrumentation. Just when the band can't seem to stretch any further, they pull the rug out with a redone version of their track "Duke" (previously off their Weight of Nations full-length) and come in with an acoustic guitar, banjo and accordion. Coupled with the hidden track, a cover of Pink Floyd's "When the Tigers Broke Free," it leaves the listener feeling like they have just suffered at the hands of some "scorched earth" policy and all that's left is to pick up the pieces and try to move ahead.

Dog's Hymns is more than a collection of songs -- it's an entire story, setting and mood spread over 11 tracks. The album manages to pick you up, throw you down and even dust you off and get you going again. It's an album that gets under your skin and in your head and you love it for that. It also serves as a shining reminder to never overlook what's in your own backyard.