The Great Destroyer
(Sub Pop)

It's a common misconception that Low have been rewriting and rerecording the same molasses-soaked record for the last 11 years. The truth of the matter, of course, is that Low has had at least two fairly distinct periods of valley, peak, and plateau (both conveniently corresponding with their tenure at record labels): the first arc--the bleak, stark and cold Vernon Yard era--began with I Could Live in Hope, peaked with the masterful Long Division, and then began to stall out with the water-treading Curtain Hits the Cast. Upon their move to Kranky, the band rebooted in the more experimental, nostalgic, almost pop-tinged Secret Name, perfected it with Things We Lost in the Fire, and plateau-ed at Trust. With their recent jump to Sub Pop, the band begins phase three in The Great Destroyer--without question the worst record of their career. Scrapping their trademark wistful subtlety, the band dons a lazy rock 'n' roll façade (hinted at on Trust's "Canada") through the meat of the record, pausing only briefly to consider things like interesting song structure and emotional presence. In the wake of their last several releases, The Great Destroyer is a surprisingly tedious listen save for a few glimmers--the "Will the Night" retread "Cue the Strings," the American folk traditionalism of "When I Go Deaf" and "Death of a Salesman," and the atmospheric dirge of "Pissing," the album's clear high point--and even those seem emotionally phoned in. It's a disappointment, certainly--but if there's hope in history, we can look forward to Low version 4.0 beginning just as soon as Sub Pop drops them. ZAC PENNINGTON

Do The Bambi
(Kill Rock Stars)

If the greatest thing American musicians ever did was to convince the rest of the world that there's something romantic about being American, then the greatest thing Stereo Total ever did was to sell it back to us. The European mutt twosome of French-born Françoise Cactus and German Brezel G-ring have spent the last decade or so crafting a decoupage amalgam of American rock, French pop, and European nebulae--which is to say, a name-checking multi-lingualism, a perpetually French New Wave visual model, and a distinctly aloof Euro-delivery. The package is a brilliantly composed, bite-sized approximation of everything lazy young American Europhiles celebrate about that god-forsaken continent. And while that manipulation alone has kept me largely at arms-length, I have to admit that I've never completely written them off--their songs are undeniable pop gems, and never so much as some places on their latest, Do the Bambi. Though a fair number of the record's 19 tracks passively melt together in a sort of Euro-wash, the record's more compelling moments (the title track, for example) hesitantly solidify my long-dodged Stereo-fandom. ZP

**** Cometbus
*** Genetic Disorder
** Tease
* Pagan's Head