(That's How You Sing) Amazing Grace

The first time I heard Low, I was a freshman in college. Our campus's excellent (but now defunct) Direct Connect file-sharing network and massive T3 bandwidth allowed me to check out literally hundreds of bands I had heard of but never heard. Somehow, I ended up with a copy of Pedro the Lion's Control, which pretty quickly cemented itself as one of my favorite albums of all time.

My newfound obsession with PtL led me to pick up their 2003 Christmas single, which had "The First Noel" on the A-side and a cover of Low's "Long Way Around the Sea" on the B-side. The latter struck me immediately, because it is a rare occasion that I like any rock band's original Christmas songs.

The first Low album I was able to get my hands on was 2002's underrated Trust, which opens with a song called "(That's How You Sing) Amazing Grace." The eerie synth, the quavering and reverb-soaked Neil Young-inspired guitar playing, and spartan rhythm section immediately caught my attention. Then came the vocals, which still to this day give me chills. Though neither Alan Sparhawk nor Mimi Parker is a particularly outstanding vocalist, their harmonies are easily among the most beautiful ever recorded.

Sparhawk never has been one for much lyrical depth, and the first two verses of this song to some extent indicate that. There's nothing wrong with them, exactly, and in fact, they do a pretty good job of setting the mood, but on their own, they don't say much. Then, the third verse enters, and suddenly, somehow it all makes sense:

Oh can you hear that sweet, sweet sound
I was lost but now I'm found
Sometimes there's nothing left to save
That's how you sing Amazing Grace.

That slight and simple twist is chilling, and ties the song together in a way that seems impossible after hearing the first two verses. I will never get tired of this song, as long as I live.

Low - (That's How You Sing) Amazing Grace

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