Alan Sparhawk & Mimi Parker of Low
are the founding members of this Duluth, Minnesota indie rock band. Low’s music features slow tempos and minimalist arrangements, but Parker and Sparhawk’s striking vocal harmonies are the group’s most distinctive element. Critic Denise Sullivan writes that their shared vocals are “as chilling as anything Gram and Emmylou ever conspired on — though that’s not to say it’s country-tinged, just straight from the heart.”
Sparhawk and Parker are married, have two children, and are practicing members of the Mormon faith. In 1999 Low released the Christmas album simply titled “Christmas” as a gift to fans. The lead single, “Just Like Christmas” is arguably Low’s biggest commercial success as band.
“The album highlight “Blue Christmas” would have been doomed to a kitschy fate in most hands, but Mimi Parker’s voice captures the broken-hearted melancholy of the original while eschewing any obvious Elvis references,” writes AllMusic’s Sanz Lashley.
Christmas also includes several songs that could alienate more secular listeners, especially “If You Were Born Today” which is chock-full of biblical references and paints an extremely despairing scenario on the fate of a contemporary Christ.
Low does a rare thing in today’s indie-rock milieu by refusing to survive on cynicism and worldliness alone. Whether or not one ascribes to their beliefs, the heartfelt and reverential beauty of their sound and lyrics are perfect for the holiday season. Christmas is a rich treat in a tiny package.
For more on Low’s discography and career, check out this excellent bio at their label Sub Pop.