by Graham Taylor
With a musical career spanning 15 years, Ryan Joseph Karazija has remained fairly under the radar. His second band, Low Roar, received some internet fame when their songs were used in trailers for Death Stranding. However the group is still relatively unknown. Debuting in 2011 with their folk heavy self titled album, Low Roar explored themes of loneliness following Karazija’s move to Iceland. Their sophomore album, 0 returned to similar topics, but with a much more electronic and dream pop influence paired with their acoustics. Once in a Long, Long While takes the positives of both previous albums and continues to expand upon them, refining their style.
Single track sample:
Once in a Long, Long While begins with “Don’t Be So Serious,” a track which would have been right at home on 0. Despite being similar to previous works, the song itself does an excellent job of highlighting many of the band’s strengths and defining characteristics. Opening with a simple drum machine, some synths, and Karazija’s ethereal voice, it eventually grow to incorporate an impressive collection of sounds. Piano, horns, more synths, and more percussion are added with each verse and chorus, creating layers and layers of sound on top of dark, dreamy vocals. This looping effect has become very characteristic of Low Roar and even helps to actualize the idea of going in circles, a recurring motif throughout the album.
Cleaner and Clearer than ever before
Many of the songs on the first half of the album follow this pattern, but that is not a bad thing. Each song is uniquely crafted with different instruments and sounds, and each track offering a different soundscape. The fact that many of these tracks also weave together also plays off this structure, where periods of quiet reflection start to turn into noisy turmoil only for it to calm back down again, mirror the songs themselves. “Waiting (10 Years)” to “Poznań” is practically one uninterrupted block of music. And while some of the breaks between songs are easy to hear, others can go by unnoticed. Production wise, the album is top notch. Beats are deep; synths are crisp, and the vocals are clean. Even with the frequent addition of sounds, nothing every really gets lost in the background.
Thematically, Once in a Long, Long While delves into subjects of isolation and sadness, stemming from betrayal, abandonment, and dead love. Again, this is not an incredibly original idea to explore, especially not for Low Roar themselves, but it manages to come off skillfully and well thought out. The music structure helps emphasize these notions, and the lyrics and instrumentals play off of each other well, creating a rather whole, moody experience.
Once in a Long, Long While is overall a good album. It’s not necessarily a departure or overly innovative compared to their earlier repertoire, but it does not need to be. Low Roar skillfully crafted a musical layer cake, and while it does not deviate much from any sort of norm, the consistency can be appreciated.
“Don’t Be So Serious”
“Give Me an Answer”
“Once in a Long Long While”
Image from Pledge Music
Once in a Long, Long While
Drawing from the strengths from their previous albums, "Once in a Long, Long While," doesn't do anything groundbreaking, but serves to refine an already established talent. Dreamy, dense, and melancholic, "Once in a Long, Long While" is an enjoyable addition to the Low Roar discography.