Review Summary: Purely stunning as a musical piece, emotionally cathartic, and perhaps the most impressive album of 2014.
Apparently, leaving California was all it took for Ryan Karazijah to summon an absolute masterpiece. Formerly of Audrye Sessions, a band that drew comparisons to The Beatles, Muse, Coldplay, and The Verve, Karazijah relocated from Oakland to Reykjavik, Iceland in 2011 and began recording very personal music that was influenced by the atmosphere around him. His self-titled debut announced that departure in style, despite flying well under music critics’ radar. 0
appears to be following that trend, garnering little fanfare despite boasting a lush, sprawling atmosphere that breaks the mold of just about every alternative album you’ve heard in 2014. But what it lacks in public exposure, it more than makes up for in substance. 0
is as aurally stunning of an album as I’ve ever heard, and it should be on anyone’s must hear
list who appreciates music that could truly qualify as art.
may be slow to begin, but once you get drawn into its moody, experimental progressions, you’ll never want to leave. At nearly seventy minutes in length, Low Roar’s sophomore release is sort of the anti-Swans of 2014. There are virtually no similarities between the artists besides their lengthy album runtimes, but the approach to listening is actually fairly similar. Experiencing 0
requires you to immerse yourself within the music, while allowing it to guide you towards the prevailing moods and themes of the entire experience. There’s almost nothing immediate, but absolutely everything is rewarding. ‘Breathe In’, possibly the most challenging track, is curiously placed at the forefront. It truly feels like an awakening, and evokes imagery of a sunrise from the vantage point of a pristine mountain. The prolonged ambiance lends itself to more of a drawn out, post-rock identity, even though the track is anything but that. As it builds through a slow, molasses-dripping pace, harmonious strings enter the mix and culminate in the completely pacifying chorus of “I breathe in.” Karazijah summons one’s most relaxed emotions with surprising grace and potency, and by this point, the listener is most likely captivated by his spell.
Everything that happens during 0
is crafted to serve an explicit purpose. The longer tracks build an identity within themselves and grow roots into each other, tying everything together into one experience. The shorter tracks, even though there aren’t many of them, act as momentary exhales from the continuous build-ups that define the album. The second and third tracks, respectively, interact in such a way. ‘Easy Way Out’ slowly progresses through eerie electronic effects reminiscent of Sigur Ros’ ( )
or Radiohead’s Kid A
before fading into a fragmented drumming outro, while ‘Nobody Loves Me Like You’ serves as the first moment that could actually be considered accessible. A love ballad of sorts, it floats atop brass woodwinds and beautiful strings while Karazijah’s angelic falsetto drives home poignant lines like “waiting for the other to break or bend, sometimes there’s no such thing as more than friends” and the soaring chorus “nobody loves me like you.” Low Roar has struck a brilliant balance on 0
, one that provides it with tremendous emotional and musical depth without sacrificing the elements that make it overtly listenable from any perspective.
After an impressive start, the album only gets better. ‘Half Asleep’ is an absolutely required listen, beginning with creepily delivered vocals and ice-tinged piano notes over top of an organ. Like the other tracks here, it becomes more complex as it builds. Soon, our ears are greeted by more uplifting elements like acoustic guitar strums and – believe it or not – hand claps. And shockingly, it all works. Perfectly
. ‘I’m Leaving’, following a mere two tracks later, appears in all its splendor as not to be outdone. Adorned with just about all of the most gorgeous aspects of alt-rock you can imagine, it is a clear gem on an album that has very few pitfalls. Inspiring piano notes ring through the air with unbridled optimism, as if they are announcing world peace. Rhythm-driving drum beats and regal horns akin to The National’s ‘England’ close out what might be the most majestic sounding indie-rock song of the past (insert how long you’ve been alive) years. The sprightly ‘In the Morning’ acts as a cushion to that cathartic ending, providing a minute-and-a-half acoustic ballad confessing, “I want you to know, I need
you to know, I love you so much more each morning.”
Before the curtains draw closed, 0
makes a definitive return to a darker sounding aura. ‘Phantoms’ progresses at a mid-tempo pace, acting as a buffer between the lovelorn side of the preceding tracks and the approaching storm clouds. Heartening but equally haunting, it culminates in a dynamic blend of drums, cymbals, and synthesizers to create what sounds like someone arriving at a life-changing epiphany. ‘Dreamer’ serves as ‘In The Morning’s brooding counterpart, dwelling in laments of ‘I believe I was poisoned…you keep me from walking, you keep me from wandering.” ‘Vampire On My Fridge’ is in keeping that mood, indulging in an electronic (almost industrial) backbeat that drives hypnotic chants until the closing violins. The way that 0
flows from one emotion to another seamlessly is one of the things that makes it sound so perfect – it’s depressed, isolated, and sad; yet somehow stunningly gorgeous and uniformly inspiring. The album transitions to the latter yet again during its final song, as ‘Please Don’t Stop (Chapter 2)’ meanders forth slowly, bringing the record full circle to the slow, oozing rhythm that commenced ‘Breathe In.’ Acoustic guitars and bone-chilling hums of “nothing I say now will help…please don’t take it the wrong way, please don’t take it wrong” give way to lighter piano notes, and the echo of the song’s last note draws out for the final twelve seconds – giving 0
a dramatic but fittingly simple ending.
is an album that will make you lose your breath at times. It is an absolutely striking album structurally, musically, and lyrically. Most of the typical flaws that lead to the downfall of a lengthy “atmospheric indie” album are nonexistent, or where they do exist, they are quelled by superb creativity. 0
sees Low Roar following in the footsteps of other groundbreaking artists like Bon Iver, Radiohead, and Sigur Ros. Some will scoff at the comparison, and obviously personal preferences will largely affect 0
’s fate from both a critical and fanbase perspective, but this is certainly an album that was crafted out of sheer passion. The emotions that tie us all together as human beings can be felt with underlying earnestness and vigor. No matter who picks up this album and decides to listen, that’s something that they won’t be able to ignore.