Released: October 17, 2006
You know it’s a fine album when a band pulls off a cover of a song like “Surrender” and it’s not even the album’s best track. Ox offers up this indie alt-country should-be classic that weaves its way from rock to country and back with a few detours along the way, all held together with low-key ambling rhythms and subtle ambience.
Most of American Lo Fi doesn’t stray too far from center, making it a perfect fit for the rural emo of roots-influenced indie rock, but there are a few tracks that help it beat its peers by at least a nose. They turn their cover of Cheap Trick’s classic entirely into their own rural take on the suburban theme without losing its essence, but that’s not even the best it has to offer. With its old-time folk style, “1913” is as genuine as it would have been had it been written by a copper miner himself. “Marta’s Song,” with it’s peculiar female lead vocal and vaudeville appeal turns oddly both dark and hopeful as a haunting rendition of “Merry Xmas (War is Over)” drops in as a background vocal. “Awkward Beauty” is a self-fulfilling prophesy for the album’s closer, a vibrato-soaked, quirky bit of blues. The album’s real gem though is “Sugar Cane.” It’s here that the albums hooks meet its soul in scratchy, beautiful and sublime vocal harmonies.
American Lo Fi is equal parts Neil Young, Gram Parsons and Death Cab for Cutie all adding up an album that’s slightly better than its peers, in a genre where those peers set a pretty high standard. That standard isn’t reached by any kind of superficial perfection, but by the very heart of the music itself and American Lo Fi has that heart cut deep into its grooves.