Apparently, UNEASY wasn’t just some throwaway album title. After entering local music fans’ collective conscious with the lauded 2013 debut before most of the band’s members could legally drink, Soul Low stood at a creative crossroads. Instead of ardently embarking out in search of one potentially alienating and regrettable sound, the band cleaned out the clutter, which took the form of the scattered (but altogether satisfying) sounds of Kind Spirit and Sweet Pea. Those records essentially existed as clearing houses for fun—albeit half-hatched—B-sides to whet suddenly hungry listener appetites as Soul Low sought some semblance of direction for where to go next.
In early 2015, Soul Low finally wrote and recorded that next full-length. Then the band re-wrote it. Unsatisfied with the self-described “sad” sound of its true sophomore effort, the group took the summer to pep up the record and parse in some of the affable pop sensibilities listeners have come to expect. Last November, Soul Low went down to Chicago and spent four days in the basement studio of Chris Lee. Subsisting on a diet of Old Style, Mexican food, and unlimited time, the quartet struck something of a creative balance between brooding and boisterous, expressive and entertaining, UNEASY and easy-listening. Nosebleeds was born.
All 6:31 of “Frenemies” quickly shows Soul Low isn’t overly concerned with losing listener attention, though the opener also doubles as the album’s most serviceable single. From that elongated outset, the record bounces around from surf rock ballad “Tied In Knots” to the frenetic “Be Like You” to the chanting crawl that is “Finger Bones.” Though the energy is evident, Soul Low showcases its growth and maturity through the layered harmonies and soft instrumentation employed in “You Know What You Do” and album-stealer “Let The Wind Blow” before bearing teeth in eight-minute opus “The Adulterer” and finally bringing the record to a comparably cutesy close with “Hard To Gauge.” Like the record-ender’s name, the sonic scope of Nosebleeds is hard to gauge, but it’s easy to like. Soul Low can rest easy knowing they turned in a fantastic sophomore full-length. Listen to Nosebleeds now, only at Milwaukee Record.
Soul Low’s Nosebleeds is available on vinyl (including a bundle with a cassette of B-sides) on Friday, August 5. See Soul Low with Milo, The Pukes, and Wax Addicts at Miramar Theatre Saturday, August 13. Tickets are $8 advance ($10 doors).