B&E: Low

Breaking & Entering: A look at acts breaking at radio and retail and entering Billboard charts. This week: Low.

Profiling acts breaking at radio and/or retail and entering Billboard's charts.

Combining vibrant drums and energetic guitar with its signature ethereal vocals, longtime Minnesota trio Low's foray into rock'n'roll manages to be both whimsical and evocative.

The shape-shifting set is a hit with fans and critics alike, as its Sub Pop debut, "The Great Destroyer" (issued Jan. 25) marks the group's first trip to the Billboard charts. In the album's second week of release, it reached No. 13 on the Top Heatseekers list and No. 19 on the Top Independent Albums tally.

While Low's 1994 debut "I Could Live in Hope" (Vernon Yard/Virgin) solidified the band as a slowcore success, the group proves its range with its seventh full-length, earning the praise of critics at Entertainment Weekly, Alternative Press and Spin. Of the album's darkly poetic "Monkey," Spin's Peter S. Scholtes notes, "Low's 'Monkey' is a ritual sacrifice at the crossroads of art rock and pop brilliance... the monkey is the band's old 'slowcore' sound."

Another standout track is the brightly melancholic "California," which showcases a sunny side of guitarist/vocalist Alan Sparhawk. Flaming Lips producer David Fridmann -- who co-produced the album -- also adds life to the song with jubilant keyboards.

The husband/wife team of Sparhawk and drummer/vocalist Mimi Parker initially enlisted bassist John Nichols for its first time out, but current member Zak Sally became the permanent bassist in time for 1995's "Long Division." Despite a lack of past chart appearances, the group has built a solid fanbase over more than a decade of touring.

The Mormon trio has also enjoyed commercial success with its holiday music. The 1999 "Christmas" release featured a cover of "The Little Drummer Boy" that was used in Gap holiday ads the following year, and the single "Just Like Christmas" was featured on last year's Warner Bros.' "Music From the O.C. Mix 3: Have a Very Merry Chrismukkah."

Despite the group's experimentation with a harder sound on the new album, don't expect a mosh pit situation at any of its upcoming shows.

"Considering the band's spiritual leanings, it was appropriate that the show proceeded along like a religious gathering, with modest restraint instead of loud testifying and awe-filled respect on the part of the fans," Billboard.com contributor Joshua Klein wrote of a recent Chicago performance. "As audiences slowly acquiesced to the group's quiet storm, Low gradually amped up, but Low at its most raucous still demands rapt attention."

Fans can enjoy a non-mosh experience throughout March, as Low continues its North American tour with Pedro the Lion. In May, the group will play dates in Australia and Japan, and it is scheduled for a Sept. 24 performance at Texas' annual Austin City Limits Festival.

Artist site: www.chairkickers.com
Label site: www.subpop.com