Low was something an anomaly in alternative music when it released its 1994 debut, I Could Live in Hope. The band’s music—quiet, restrained, and precise—was the antithesis of the waves of distortion and emotional bombast that characterized grunge’s second wave. Singer and songwriter Alan Sparhawk initially conceived Low as something of a conceptual experiment. While rehearsing with their more typically aggressive indie outfit Zen Identity, Sparhawk and bassist John Nichols began working up minimal, quiet improvisations during downtime. The project soon took on a life of its own, and with the addition of singer and percussionist Mimi Parker, Low became a self-sufficient musical unit. Though the music press was quick to dub Low’s music “slowcore” or “sadcore,” these terms don’t capture the musical and emotional dynamism of these 11 carefully arranged songs. Though not as lush or assured as some of Low’s later work, I Could Live in Hope effectively lays the template for the rest of the band’s career, and is, in its own small and self-contained way, a near-perfect album.
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