from The Sacred Heart Sessions
Team Love Records, 2015
God I love being smart. Using words they taught me in SAT prep. Connecting dots you’d never think to. Making statements so hard to understand that they couldn’t possibly be meaningless. My brain is a Great Dane puppy. It needs room to run, or it will go crazy. In any space you try to confine it, it will first hump all the furniture, then destroy it.
I like music that’s smart. Painfully, awkwardly smart, like Conor Oberst’s whiny manifestos. Smart and cool as shit, like Jay-Z’s withering pronouncements. Whole-body smart, like Feist’s open tunings and literate lullabies. Stuff that gets my cerebellum tapping. When the world outside presents all kinds of hungers and evils and inadequacies, it’s nice for the world in the headphones to be crafted from the delicate stuff of exceptional minds.
Then once in a while a song makes its way to my ear and reminds me where else I live. It takes me out of my overactive intellect and into the guts where, to my surprise, I’m processing all kinds of puzzles and slights and encounters both old and new. Down there it still boils my blood how my sixth-grade science teacher dumped my backpack onto a desk when I couldn’t find my homework. It still startles my heart the way the girl from summer camp kissed my cheek when we said goodbye. And I’m somebody’s dad now. Those places are always there, but it takes music (and very little else will do) to get to them.
“Rosie” by the young roots-music duo The Lowest Pair is one of those songs. You all know how I like any excuse to use WordPress’s block-quote feature and throw a bunch of lyrics at you, as if passing them along gave me rights to a cut of their genius. But these guys know that what they have to say is not about words. They offer up an understated verse or two of vocals, more punctuation than declaration. Their two banjos keep dripping melodic tears into a deep well. And then they deliver the chorus, a braided whip of beautiful anguish. And then they sing it again and again.
It’s not just some clever device; this song is really stuck in my head. Maybe I’m feeling more alone and forsaken than I realized. Maybe we all are a little.