SCQ Rating: 79%
“I won’t wake a wealthy man someday, cause the sun don’t follow me,” Ryan Karazija insists in the opening lyrics to Low Roar’s eponymous debut, and it’s a tough pessimism to pierce. As a twelve-song ode to the challenges of moving from California to Iceland and trying to adapt to a startling new life, Low Roar already carries some metaphorical (and literal – sorry, had to) baggage. But the self-titled record proves a harder nut to crack in light of how it projects that baggage, choosing a consistently dreary mood that reduces each song’s tempo to a chilling crawl. That uphill battle, daunting though it may be, beguilingly sets the stage for the many reasons you, dear reader, will want to stick around.
Each song plucked from the self-titled’s first handful of tracks conveys acoustic ruminations backed by two disparate palettes: a molasses-slow smear of buzzing organ (‘Give Up’ and ‘Patience’, the latter sounding like a minimal reduction of Coldplay’s grandiose ‘Politik’) and electronic ambience (‘Nobody Else’). Karazija establishes his Thom Yorke-styled vocals elegantly into both environments and somehow merges the wintry isolation of his words with a nestled coziness drawn out by his arrangements. His songwriting knack neither lightens nor slips over the course of its near hour, although one could argue that the remote feeling intentionally driving Karazija’s muse becomes detrimental to the album as a whole. As much as I appreciate the merits of later songs like ‘Rolling Over’ and the mournful ‘Help Me’, it’s tough to stick by the record uninterruptedly. That Low Roar’s single, ‘Tonight, Tonight, Tonight’ appears at the close of the song-cycle might be acknowledgement of the record’s long journey but it’s telling that I can’t tell you what it really sounds like.
Obviously a work of extreme intimacy, Low Roar bears a lyrical directness like the diary of a man abandoned to the edge of humanity. Still, it proves lush and evocative beyond Karazija’s supposedly stark confines and looks to connect with anyone susceptible to melancholy. If given the proper time to digest, Low Roar has all of the makings of an overlooked, if arduous, classic.