Review Summary: The noise is here to stay (but that's not necessarily a bad thing)
HEY WHAT is a more refined take in the sonic netherworld that Low's previous album Double Negative established - it's quite impressive how Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker (now working as a duo without a bassist) have managed to perfectly combine their distinct harmony-based musical approach from earlier records with the newer abrasive soundscapes. "Days Like These" is a great showcase for the merge of styles, with the sudden switch from calmly-strummed guitar to hyper-compressed vocals. The segues on the first half of the record are brilliant - the transition of the pulsing synth finishing "White Horses" suddenly blooming with the shimmering yet rhythmic pads on "I Can Wait" is a brilliant sequencing choice. The latter track is just gorgeous as well. The denouement on "Hey" is particularly beautiful and lush; while some of Double Negative's outros seemed to just wander off into the distance (such as on "Dancing and Blood"), this track takes full advantage of its eight-minute runtime.
The record does notably taper off towards the end, though - "There's A Comma After Still" doesn't really provide the sense of reprieve that "The Son, the Sun" provided on Double Negative. The overblown crunchy guitars of "More" seem very oddly placed on the record after the relatively-quiet and contemplative atmosphere on "Don't Walk Away", and the transition is jarring in the least-complimentary sense of the word. "The Price You Pay" builds and builds, but doesn't quite reach the high it's suggesting.
It’s astonishing to see how Low has turned their sound inside-out on their past two records while still managing to sound like no one else. Although HEY WHAT is contextually best explained in Low’s discography as Double Negative Pt. 2, it is by no means derivative or unengaging. Its shortcomings are noble mistakes, respectable artistic choices that just aren’t as rewarding as intended. The record’s high points, though, see Low at their finest – showcasing hymnal-like vocals and masterfully restrained songwriting, just with compelling overblown sound instead of haunting silence.