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Album reviews

The Low Anthem: ‘Smart Flesh’

By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / February 22, 2011

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Low Anthem isn’t just a band name, it’s a sonic philosophy. On “Smart Flesh,’’ the splendid follow-up to the group’s justly beloved 2008 release “Oh My God, Charlie Darwin,’’ the Providence-spawned quartet soaks its spectral indie-folk in dreamy reverb, pedal steel, back porch banjo, and high lonesome harmonica. Hints of forebears from Bob Dylan to Vic Chesnutt to the Band pop up along the way on the introspective, 11-song set. Whether seeking the cure for the shape that the band members are in on the bittersweet pill that is “Apothecary Love,’’ lamenting a lost loved one on “I’ll Take Out Your Ashes,’’ or amping up the tempo and the drama for “Boeing 737,’’ “Smart Flesh’’ flows as one cohesive, haunting soundscape. That ghostly sensibility dances perilously close to dirgelike in a few of the album’s more droning, melancholic, and low-energy corners; but the band never lets the mood slacken beyond grasp, always offering a sharp vocal edge or mesmerizing interlude to keep listeners leaning in. (Out today)

ESSENTIAL “Hey, All You Hippies!’’

Low Anthem plays Old South Church March 4.