Review by Josh Svetz
RIYL: Blondie, Frankie Rose, Real Estate
Recommended Tracks: Track 1-Sucker’s Shangri-La, Track 3-To Die in L.A, Track 7-Electric Current, Track 9-Company
It’s been three years since Jana Hunter and crew released their highly successful second LP, Nootropics and it shows— in a good way. The long-awaited follow up has finally materialized in Escape from Evil. This time out, Lower Dens show more grasp of their material, sounding confident and powerful throughout the ten track LP.
Lower Dens showcases a synthy-indie style, with elements of folk and crisp drums that can be atmospheric at times. The biggest change with Lower Dens is the development of Jana Hunter. Simply put, you won’t find anything like “Brains” on this LP, a great song in its own right, but not much of a showcase of Hunter’s vocal abilities. This time, Hunter belts and bellows throughout the record and damn it she’s quite good at it.
In their zone, Lower Dens sounds like a stripped-down, indie rock Blondie. This comes about from the sheer power of Hunter’s vocals, which are reminiscent of Debbie Harry’s potent vocals. Don’t be mistaken, Lower Dens always has had excellent instrumentals. However Hunter’s improved vocals elevates the band as a whole.
Lower Dens falls in love with the synthesizer more than Flock of Seagulls did back in the 80’s, as every track sounds like it came right off an 80’s new wave compilation CD. Of course, the indie, dark, but upbeat touch is what sets their sound apart from other post new wave emulations.
The LP begins with a fever dream-like Lynchonian track in “Suckers Shangri-La,” which sets the tone for the atmospheric album you’ll be introduced to. The third track, “To Die in L.A,” brings about the most atmosphere as the portrayal of Hunter’s fixation for the city of L.A is presented, but never answered. “Electric Current” stands out as the top track with the synthesizer put to its best use, complimenting the crisp drums and bellowing of Hunter’s voice.
The main concern with Lower Dens hasn’t changed— it’s late night reflecting music with lyrics that don’t always live up to their ambition, which remains true in Escape From Evil. Yet— it works, and not only is there a shift in sound from the group, but there’s a growth in their artistic ability.
With that in mind, Lower Dens’ third release isn’t as dark as Nootropics, but still maintains their sound. They keep the atmospheric, artsy touch that makes them a “love them or hate them band,” but the growth gets you closer to loving them.