When: Fri., Feb. 24, 9 p.m. 2017
Between the self-applied genre of "hush folk" and the very name of the band itself, Charlottesville-via-Greensboro duo Lowland Hum does a rather spot-on job of letting listeners know what to expect before hearing a single note of its music. The gorgeous voices and gentle harmonies of Lauren and Daniel Goans confer a quiet tranquility upon their collaborative songwriting, which often culls influences from both the natural world and spiritual themes for poetic lyricism. It's the kind of placid and ruminative sound that can fade into the background just as easily as it can jolt an attentive listener through an expertly crafted metaphor.
It wouldn't be altogether silly to deride the title of the couple's third and most recent full-length, Thin, as an inadvertent indicator of the album's staying power, which, at least initially, seems relatively meager. But repeated listens—along with the Goans's recent illuminating track-by-track breakdown of the album for NPR—reveals an album rife with vulnerable confessions beneath its calm exterior.
"Hold tight to what I think I know about redemption/Lord, kill this phantom, swinging, gaping hole sensation," Lauren softly sings on "Family Tree," while a nonlexical vocal volleys back and forth over a repetitive guitar line and accents of piano. "Someone to Change My Mind" similarly employs simple guitar beneath Daniel's stark confession that "I walked one Saturday hoping to find someone to change my mind/prove I'm one of a kind." He delivers the line in a soothing tone before the song breaks into a stomp for the psyched-out coda, in which Lauren wildly cries out a refrain of "love me."
Aside from the final minute, the album's title also alludes to the record's sparse instrumentation; rather than the more fleshed-out studio arrangements of the band's previous releases, Thin relies primarily on the pair's vocals with subtle support from guitar and percussion. Tracked in the Goans's attic, the songs are so calm that the calls of cicadas and birds make unintentional guest appearances on a few tunes. Thin is the kind of record that's better heard on a lazy Sunday morning than in a noisy rock club, but Lowland Hum's disarming honesty may be enough to suppress the crowd murmurs and allow its virtues to shine.
Opening the show is a stellar one-off squad of local all-stars: Skylar Gudasz, Josh Moore, Jeff Crawford, and Casey Toll, performing material from Gudasz, Moore, and Crawford as The Joe Bells. —Spencer Griffith