Retribution Gospel Choir, 2
A gorgeous, unapologetic man's album, with blunt objects and blunter motives
This is not the Alan Sparhawk you know. As the frontman for Duluth, Minnesota's Low, he has always been driven by foggy, thundering minimal rock — it's been called, to his chagrin, slowcore. But Retribution Gospel Choir, comprised of Sparhawk, Low bassist Steve Garrington, and Eric Pollard on drums, want nothing to do with glacial pacing. Instead, the second album from this between-albums side project is the most straightforward, brawny thing Sparhawk has ever done. On 2 he's mostly flexing strength: of his guitar, his rich, gliding voice, and perhaps the freedom afforded by the absence of his wife, Low's Mimi Parker. "Electric Guitar" is more than eight minutes of throbbing, rising, punishing stoner rock that crests and crumbles with abandon. There are sincere power pop flashes here, too, like the chipper, Big Star-esque "White Wolf." Opener "Hide It Away," as clean and startling a song as Sparhawk has ever performed, is shimmering, and anthemic — it's hard to believe this is the same Alan Sparhawk. Even when the band works to obfuscate their joyful songwriting with crackling, muffled recording and stately progressions, as on "Something's Going to Break," it can't help but explode into a breathtaking, unvarnished coda. Retribution Gospel Choir have made a gorgeous, unapologetic man's album, with blunt objects and blunter motives.