Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. In celebration of Sub Pop’s Silver Jubilee, KEXP is featuring songs exclusively from Sub Pop artists this week. Today’s song is “Plastic Cup” by Low from the KEXP in-studio session on 4/6/2013.
Intensely quiet and filled with subtle tension, Duluth, Minnesota, band Low is one of a handful of bands that plays better at 1 than they do at 11. Consisting of vocalist/guitarist Alan Sparhawk, drummer/vocalist Mimi Parker, and multi-instrumentalist Steve Garrington, the trio is infamously low volumes reveals their songwriting nuances as much as it strengthens them. The band’s local reputation was solidified by the late ’90s, and they started making national waves with the release of 2001’s Things We Lost In The Fire. By the time the band joined up with Sub Pop in 2005, they were already an indie rock institution with some of their best work yet to come. The band’s first release with Sub Pop, 2005’s The Great Destroyer, remains one of their most acclaimed albums (they were asked to perform it at Primavera Sound only five years after its release), and their subsequent three albums with the label – 2007’s Drums & Guns, 2011’s C’mon, and 2013’s The Invisible Way – have all continued to show a band that remains as sharp, and perhaps (relatively) louder, than ever. “Plastic Cup”, a stark, chilling cut from The Invisible Way, retains its atmospheric tension in this in-studio recording, highlighting Parker’s harmonies and Sparhawk’s murmuring voice as the latter tells a story of middle age and drug tests with a somewhat startling conviction. In an age where millennials seem more likely than not to take a drug test for a job they’re fortunate to get at all, “Plastic Cup” has an stirring resonance – from a trio of Midwestern fortysomethings, nonetheless.
Unfortunately, Low will not be playing at Sub Pop’s Silver Jubilee this coming Saturday, and they don’t have any other Pacific Northwestern dates booked right now, but they are on tour for the rest of the year, so check out their website and Facebook for any future shows or updates. And watch the video of this live version of “Plastic Cup” from this very session here now: