Charlie Darwin was a misunderstood man. A lonely man. A man with a lot of big ideas, and not enough people who listened to them. At least, not to the ones that mattered. The ones about lost loves, the ones carried in between tender strings of forgotten instruments, the spaces between words and the echoes of poetic sounds, sandwiched between the rough and raw, explosions of gutsy blues or delicate folk of The Low Anthem's album Oh My God, Charlie Darwin.
The Low Anthem are from Rhode Island, and Charlie Darwin may or may not have been from the same place. But this album is a tribute to the man, and it's a tribute to the state. Opening track "Charlie Darwin" trembles with a cold, lost beauty, a soulful cry for a man so lost. It carries to the slow slide and drag of "Cage the Songbird," with a chorus that flutters with a mournful elation, a tortured optimism, restrained release. "Don't Tremble" creates in harmonicas and gentle strings a song that comforts, a blanket of hope and promise beyond its sensitive folk disguise. These haunting ghosts and characters, places and tattered houses, black and white photographs, slowly thread together.
But that is all a part a disguise, because then, then there are the gritty scratch of "The Horizon is s Beltway" or "Home I'll Never Be," sandpaper and heavy rocks on a road, hard and pressing and furious blues. An intensity and unexpected urgency, unreserved and vicious in its embrace of mean low growled voices and dangerous guitars. These shifting collections of songs make Oh My God, Charlie Darwin a soundtrack to an unpredictable story. And at its end, "To Ohio (Reprise)" concludes the album and the journey with a full, sweeping beauty in a song full of grains shifting, angelic echoed voices and a simple insistence in the structure of the song itself. - Laura Yan