[3 January 2012]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Low Roar is a new project from singer-songwriter Ryan Karazija, created after he moved from San Francisco to Reykjavik. It’s important to note the geographical change because it paints nearly every sound on this expansive yet hushed record. You can feel the all-encompassing cold of an Icelandic winter all over these songs. They’re built around Karazija’s guitar and voice—which doesn’t sound that far removed from Jonsi’s—but it’s the subtle layers and echo laid on top of them that give these songs life.
The glitchy beats that haunt “Nobody Else” make it seem like some alien transmission, while “The Painter” adds faint shimmering keys to create some gentle yet troubled lullaby. Behind Karazija’s knack for layering, there are some great songs. In particular, “Friends Make Garbage (Good Friends Take It Out)” is an outstanding folk number, both basic in its finger-picked quiet texture but also perfect in its execution. “We were just kids,” Karazija keens to open up the song, and you’re caught in its fragile past right away. If Low Roar runs into trouble, it’s that it may stay too quiet, too insistently slow, for too long. As the languid numbers pile up they can—on lesser moments like the swaying “Rolling Over” or the overdone “Because We Have To”—approach torpor. Still, this is a sweet, aching record, and it’s one that manages to reach out and connect with us, even as its tied to its own specific place and history.