Slowcore greats Low add some electronic touches to their spare sound and come out with their best album in years. Mimi Parker’s tender vocals float through space and malfunctioning electronics on haunting opener “Gentle.” Alan Sparhawk leads the band through the Western-tinged “No Comprende,” which ambles along unhurriedly but with a gritty beat and tense, muted guitars. Despite slight changes in the band’s sound, exemplified on the “What Part of Me,” in which Sparhawk and Parker’s vocals waltz over a light synth-pop pulse, Low are still at their best when crafting intensely intimate music that seems to fill huge, empty spaces with overwhelming emotion, such as on the simply stunning “Spanish Translation.” Whether you’re new to Low or just needed a reminder of their greatness, Ones & Sixes does the trick.
I missed this one last week, but it’s worth mentioning anyway because of how rad it is. Hanna Lew (Grass Widow) releases a second album with her new band, pairing jagged post-punk riffs with coldwave synths and Lew’s floating, layered vocals. The results range from the melodic Blondie-style pop of “Broken Lines” to the pulsating, thrilling “Cracks.” Into the Air works because Lew and co. seem to know what to put into every song, pulling from influences as needed — a little Kraftwerkian rigidity here, a little punk fury there — rather than stuffing it all into every song. As such, Into the Air’s songs stand alone, the towering synth-popper “Spirals” a perfect apotheosis of their various tendencies, and hang together masterfully at the same time.