The Low Lows

There’s no room for restraint in romance. I'd rather throw myself full force into the face of it. Love accepts no less a sacrifice.

And sacrifice is inherent in such a reckless heart as mine. Many memories are surely made in mad passion but they all turn to shredding shards when shattered by their very volatility. At that moment, every image, every situation, every place, taste, and sound that further fueled my love becomes entirely intolerable.

There are places I can’t go. There are tastes of which I must now not partake. There are things I cannot drink. And there are records I must never hear again.

It’s losing those records that hurts the most. I bet my heart and up the ante with the music that I love. And when I lose, that loss is amplified by the still resounding resonance of a song that once scored something sweet.

Age has made me no more cautious or careful. If anything it has only made my wagers more audacious. To my first love I lost only some Sire-era Dinosaur Jr and my ironic appreciation for John Denver. But three loves later I was betting The Velvet Underground and all 69 Love Songs.

This last bet though was my boldest yet. I was so certain of a sure thing I put Mirah, Iron & Wine, Neutral Milk Hotel, and The Shins all on the line and when the tables turned against me I damn near lost Pavement too.

It was one hell of a loss, but nothing that could keep me from making the same mistake. I was glad to give up what I gave for the rush of love while it lasted. I’ll do it again. And the next record I wager will be Parker & Lily’s The Low Lows.

Though I have yet to make the most of it, The Low Lows is sure to be my favorite make-out record of 2005. Aching with a swelling swoon and awash in a haze of heartache, it’s a sure-fire soundtrack for languorous wine-lipped kisses or carousing-come-down cuddles.

Created by a couple close to dissolution, the record throbs will a dull hurt. More of a bruise than a wound, this pulsing pain propels The Low Lows with the slow steady beat of a broken heart. Only “User’s Guide” and “Suit of Fire” deviate from the predominantly druggy dirge and into more moderate tempos. Still, Parker Noon’s codeine croon and plenty of thick syrupy reverb render even these songs molasses slow and just as sticky sweet.

That a record can creep with such captivating elegance is a testament to Parker & Lily’s entirely idiosyncratic soundscapes. Their New York City origins are noticeable only in that they sound like The Walkmen when The Walkmen sound less like The Srokes and more like Tom Waits. Beyond that, there is no clear comparison and only the most tenuous touchstones. There’s the sonorous swell of My Morning Jacket but only as heard outside the grain silo and asleep in the gutter. The hiss and hum of analog tubes and tape warm The Low Lows with the same intimate creak and groan of early Iron & Wine yet the arrangements well up too impossibly lush to accommodate such a comparison. They evoke the mood of a lo-fi Mark Lannegan Band but with none of the bullshit bravado. And on “I Am a Gun” and “June Gloom” acoustic strumming and pedal steel surges evoke the notion of an Americana Sigur Ros. All of this amounts to a contradictory cacophony that is at once gracefully shambolic and beautifully ugly. As David Berman might put it, “I never knew a bird could fly so low.”

While I can’t call it instantaneously accessible, The Low Lows is surely a worthwhile and rewarding listen. From submerged symphonic swells to disembodied candy-pop sweetness there’s something to satisfy every sonic fetish amidst the muck and murk of a willfully anomalous recording. Beyond and behind that dissonance is a genius capacity for the integration and transcendence of influence. Compellingly challenging and excitingly adventurous, it could prove to be this year’s Palm Fronds.

Mine is a most risky way to love. Yet I know no other way. While the quaking beauty of The Low Lows may be most precious to me now, I’ll be quick to put it down on the table in another romantic wager.

Along with everything else.

Ample downloads courageously provided by Parker & Lily.

Buy it now from Amazon and have The Low Lows in your make-out mix by Valentine's Day