REVIEW: THE LOWER 48 – THE LOWER 48 (2013)
“She fell in love with the Sixties/ And they broke her heart,” The Lower 48’s Ben Braden and Sarah Parson sing on “That’s What I’ll Say,” a bustling, enthusiastically fun cut off the band’s self-titled EP release. It’s no secret that the 1960s are a prominent influence on the young three-piece band based out of Portland, Oregon. The decade is dabbed all over The Lower 48’s new six-song collection, with the album often incorporating those warm, glowing ‘60s harmonies, but also flirting with some of the psychedelic tones of the era as well. The ‘60s pop influence is nothing new, but The Lower 48 find a way to incorporate it more naturally and attractively than many other band that have attempted the same integration.
“Rabbit Hole” kicks off the EP on a splashy, layered note. The track rattles with hints of tamed brass funk over a delightfully entrancing melody. Parson’s unique voice noticeably powers the tune, ringing of a Sinead O’Connor-like command. “Lion’s Den” also showcases Parson’s distinct striving vocals along with Nick Sadler’s sharp drum work, particularly on the tune’s Western-tinted bridge.
The cornerstone track on The Lower 48 is album closer “Setting Sun.” Catchy, well-crafted and memorable, it’s one that will stand out among the endless loops of indie/folk/ pop-rock songs currently making the rounds. And who doesn’t love a well-timed trumpet? The brass inclusion creates the perfect accent to “Setting Sun,” completing a tune that’s nothing short of ‘60s-fused pop bliss.
With all the shimmers of top-40 accessibility found on the The Lower 48, it’s welcoming to hear a deeper, more experimental track like “Bowtie.” Though not as immediate as the other cuts, it reveals an edge to The Lower 48’s music; an extra layer that can only enrich future songwriting. The track’s closing jam session also prominently highlights the band’s well-developed rock instrumental capabilities.
The Lower 48 is an impressive introductory collection from the young Portland band. It features a handful of hit-ready songs, more so than most full-length albums attempting the same feat. The Lower 48 along with their 1960s musical style will seemingly be mentioned together forever, but all influences aside, the trio knows how to write present-day, catchy pop music. And from further hints of compelling sounds on the new EP, the depth doesn’t stop there. The Lower 48 features a band with a promising sound to build off of, one that’s, fortunately enough, already polished beyond its years.