Saturday, 23rd June 2018. 3:44:36pm ET
Reviews CD Reviews Alternative, Indie Rock Parker and Lily- The Low Lows

 


Artist: Parker & Lily
CD Title: The Low Lows
Label: Warm Electronic Recordings
Reviewer: Joshua Heinrich
Date: 12/7/04

The third and final installment in a trilogy documenting the romantic relationship between vocalist Parker Noon and organist Lily Wolfe, Parker & Lily's The Low Lows highlights the couple's breakup through 10 moody, atmospheric offerings. It is, however, not the bitter, devastatingly sad downer one might expect from the subject matter so much as a slice of nostalgic melancholia. The band's sparse, moody, sometimes heavily tremelo-enhanced musical blend and reverb drenched vocals certainly give off a retro 60s/70s vinyl vibe, aided by its largely tube and tape based production, at times drawing easy comparisons to bands like The Velvet Underground. For a slightly more modern and perhaps even more accurate reference, picture an album of dreamy Mazzy Star ballads fronted instead by a male vocalist.

The album's sound is largely guitar and organ based, filled out by sparse percussion with other instrumentation varying by song and ranging from string and brass arrangements to piano to steel guitar to bells and beyond. The songwriting is exceptional. Most songs have fairly simple foundations, based largely around underlying plodding 2-note progressions. The real meat here comes in the form of the great sparse but layered instrumental arrangements and breathtakingly gorgeous and exceptionally unique production sewn around those foundations. Noon's well-constructed lyrics range from abrasively bitter inner dialog ("don't blink your eyes like that at me, you're not the fucking prom queen") to clever wordplay ("bar light bar bright, first bar I see tonight") to stark poetic imagery ("the subways are soft and sighing, like palm trees beside the sea to me"). In fact, Noon's often bitter, sarcastic, disenchanted lyrics, when combined with the disc's dreamy laid back musical approach, create an interesting juxtaposition that actually serves to enhance the appeal of the band's musical formula.

This disc opens with its title track, "The Low Lows", followed by "I am a Gun", the former being a beautiful introduction to the album's mellow sonic formula and the latter having something of a stark southern vibe. "June Gloom", with its beautiful melancholy string arrangements and subtle steel guitar accents, is arguably the disc's best offering, while the following "User's Guide" takes on a very different, more upbeat and whimsical tone.

The mellow musical formula of "The Last Good Night" is reminiscent of the disc's opening track, albeit a bit more layered and dense at times. Conversely, the comparatively offbeat "Suit of Fire" throws a lo-fi drum machine into the mix, effectively creating a quirky musical blend that somehow manages to embrace all the cheese of a pre-programmed 80s consumer Casio track without losing credibility. "Invisible Cities" is a lovely instrumental built around a trombone progression, while "Candy's Last Day" returns to organ-driven ballad form with occasionally dissonant rhythm guitar reaching up from beneath the surface. "Smashing Party" is far more laid back than its title might suggest, ironically serving up one of the disc's dreamier offerings with fairly prominent yet light percussion. The album-ending bonus track, "I Don't Live Here Anymore", is fairly consistent with the general sound of the rest of the disc, making it a fitting finale.

Despite welcoming comparisons to 60s/70s rock and a small handful of more recent acts, the band's sound on The Low Lows is refreshingly original by today's standards. It's haunting and lovely, but also a sometimes slightly quirky foray into retro kitsch that, even being quite non-mainstream, will likely appeal to a fairly large underground audience. With exceptional songwriting, strong performances, and brilliant production, The Low Lows is nothing short of spectacular.

 

Parker & Lily website: www.parkerandlily.com

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