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Posted on April 7th, 2015 (12:00 pm) by N. Neal Paradise

Hipsters are the worst. The stereotypical image persists in everyone’s memory – the wallet chain-wearing, beard-sporting, horchata-drinking, gotta-have-the-new-iPhone a-holes who live-tweet everything and leave no ironic stone unturned. Seriously, they’re the worst.

Doubly bad is that the things they appropriate (like flannel shirts, fedoras and *AHEM* indie music) are sometimes actually worthwhile. However, once the hipster crowd declares them “cool,” they become ubiquitous one second, incredibly overdone the next, and eventually infuriatingly cliché. The bright side of this is that it creates a golden opportunity: you can either latch on to whatever achingly obscure thing the crowd appropriates this week, or you can be completely authentic in your tastes. You can like what you like because you like it, not because anyone else does.

The Lowest Pair picks the latter. While bluegrass dueling-banjos music seems like a hipster’s dream (it’s not; it’s actually faded from popularity in some circles), Kendl Winter and Palmer T. Lee come at it completely honestly. No showboating, no smacking you over the head with their style. Their premiere, 36 Cents, showed this pair as a distinct presence in the music world, one that couldn’t be ignored or dismissed as a simple novelty. Now, The Sacred Heart Sessions, their second album in thirteen months, proves without a doubt that the excitement they generated in 2014 was not a fluke.

The Sacred Heart cover is highly reminiscent of Grant Wood’s painting “American Gothic,” though we at IYS don’t believe for a second that Winter and Lee are nearly as grim and resigned as they would have us believe. Sacred Heart is a darker and more melancholy album than 36 Cents was, but it’s still infused with American steeliness and simple perseverance. This album captures something elemental, something that we can all appreciate, no matter what our walk of life, proclivities, prejudices, loves, dreams or particular sins may be.

The Lowest Pair benefit greatly from keeping things simple. The whole of Sacred Heart sounds like it was recorded in an expansive church, not a studio. The album’s theme seems to be the fixing of broken things, and that nothing can’t be brought back to life with Jesus and little duct tape. Song titles like "Minnesota Mend Me" and "In the Durning of a Moment" suggest this. There’s an echo-y quality to most songs that adds a mournful, almost holy component (or “sacred,” if you please), a weight to the songs that seems too heavy at times. Tracks like “Scavenger Hunt,” "Minnesota Mend Me," and lead-off single “Rosie,” are so thick with soft and ponderous emotion it almost breaks one’s heart. Other moments, like “Shipwright” and “Fourth Time’s a Charm” are juicy and sweet, forcing at least an embarrassed grin with their sense of fun. The latter, in particular, with its scat-like chorus and quick-as-lightning verses, is incredibly disarming; how can you say a bad word about it? Winter and Lee even wax poetic on “Howl,” and remind us of simple pleasures on “Smile and Nod.” All in all, it’s quite charming.

Meteoric rises and sold-out stadium tours might suit some other bands, but The Lowest Pair are probably much more comfortable with a campfire circle and the starry skies, or if that’s not possible, a small club where they can actually talk to their audience. While The Sacred Heart Sessions isn’t a record that will explode into anyone’s homes a la Born to Run, it is emotionally charged, beautifully composed, and essential listening for anyone with a heart. The Sacred Heart Sessions won’t solve all the world’s problems, but it just might cure you of being a hipster.

Track List:

  1. Ruben's Fortune
  2. Howl
  3. Rosie
  4. Fourth Time's a Charm
  5. Minnesota Mend Me
  6. Shipwright
  7. In the Durning of a Moment
  8. Smile and Nod
  9. Hogtied
  10. Scavenger Hunt
The Lowest Pair - The Sacred Heart Sessions Review
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

88 / 100
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