Smart Flesh - The Low Anthem
Metascore
76

Generally favorable reviews - based on 30 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 22 out of 30
  2. Negative: 0 out of 30
  1. Feb 23, 2011
    90
    Joyous, pensive, cathartic and hymnal in equal measure, this is the human condition set to music.
  2. Welcome to The Low Anthem's Smart Flesh, where folk music doesn't need to be reinvented for it to come alive – just performed. If you're looking for a solid folk spooker to open the year, your search ends here.
  3. Feb 22, 2011
    88
    The soul-endangering threat of our current man-machine moment is unlikely to register.
  4. Feb 22, 2011
    87
    It's the lyrics that make Smart Flesh truly shine.
  5. Apr 6, 2011
    80
    For all its romance, this is a record at the sharp end of mortality. [March 2011, p. 96]
  6. Mar 1, 2011
    80
    More downtempo delights from Rhode Islanders. [March 2011, p. 106]
  7. 80
    The only mis-step on the album is "Boeing 737", a pounding, splashy stomp whose brash incoherence perhaps disguises a commentary on the twin towers attacks. It seems brutish and crude set alongside the rest of the album, which otherwise has the kind of stylistic and atmospheric unity that reminds one of what albums can offer that no other format can match.
  8. Feb 25, 2011
    80
    The sounds on Smart Flesh may be muted, but there is power and daring in its pursuit of stillness. File under: a quiet Storm. [Mar 2011, p.84]
  9. Feb 23, 2011
    80
    The album's predominant mood is not glumness, it is togetherness, and it invokes images of storytelling, late nights, campfires, whiskey and beards. The stuff of men with things on their minds.
  10. Feb 23, 2011
    80
    Easy-going and mellifluous, songs built on the simplest of patterns.
  11. Feb 23, 2011
    80
    The songs are deliberately loose and minimalist -- intricacy tends to get lost in the booming, resonant halls of a factory -- but the substance that remains is strong, potent stuff.
  12. Feb 22, 2011
    80
    These exquisitely voiced musings on love, healing and mortality really hit the spot.
  13. Feb 22, 2011
    80
    Although Providence has a noise-rock loft scene, the Low Anthem ended up working the quiet side of the street, coming up with a dead-earnest sound that lacks any overt recognition of the modern world.
  14. Feb 22, 2011
    80
    There are few happy endings here, but the wounded have plenty of room to roam and waltz.
  15. Feb 22, 2011
    80
    That ghostly sensibility dances perilously close to dirgelike in a few of the album's more droning, melancholic, and low-energy corners; but the band never lets the mood slacken beyond grasp, always offering a sharp vocal edge or mesmerizing interlude to keep listeners leaning in.
  16. 80
    The Low Anthem are desperately trying to say something, even if that message is not always crystal clear.
  17. This is a good record, but I can't help thinking that The Low Anthem are on the verge of something great.
  18. 75
    Smart Flesh is a quiet, modest success, if a bit monochrome.
  19. Feb 23, 2011
    75
    Smart Flesh won't just set many a lonely heart aflutter - it will stick around in the morning to make breakfast.
  20. Feb 22, 2011
    75
    It's not all that troublesome, but it would be nice to hear the band stretch out beyond its rustic bubble just a bit.
  21. 70
    Notes reverberate and gently die while voices float in the ether, creating a sense of reverence and calm for most of the album.
  22. 70
    Smart Flesh won't grab you with big hooks or infectious grooves, but listen long enough, and it'll sink its teeth right in to you.
  23. Feb 23, 2011
    60
    At heart this is a dustily traditional collection of folk songs, their straightforward rhythms and plain instrumentation intermittently embellished with musical saw and pump organ, their lyrics of loss, redemption and death occasionally startling, with such vivid imagery as that of a Bible in a bath of formaldehyde.
  24. Feb 22, 2011
    60
    The problem here is that all these competing styles result in a bit of a lack in a distinctive voice for the band.
  25. Feb 22, 2011
    60
    As part of a longer discography, Smart Flesh will probably stand as a good, solid point in The Low Anthem's career, a sign of the band developing their sound and their songwriting before delivering something truly special.
  26. Mar 11, 2011
    50
    While it shares many similarities with the quieter side of their first record, it never quite achieves the same heart-rending beauty we know they're capable of.
  27. Set your sights high, by all means, but when each track sounds like an attempt to emulate a specific great (Bruce, Bob, Leonard, the Band etc) the confused listener can't help but be left thinking "Will the real Low Anthem please stand up?"
  28. Feb 22, 2011
    50
    Americana and modern folk are often dismissed for their dour self-seriousness, and Smart Flesh, unfortunately, falls into the worst of those trappings.
  29. Apr 13, 2011
    48
    As long as the Low Anthem discount the idea that this music was once meant to stir the blood, rile the soul, and actually be exciting, it's always going to be historically inaccurate in a way no amount of sepia-toned ambience can overcome.
  30. Mar 23, 2011
    40
    As an album, there's little holding Smart Flesh together. [Feb. 2011, p. 72]

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