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Album Review: Lower Dens "Escape From Evil"

Escape From Evil album cover artwork. 

Short Review: Escape From Evil is the third release from electro-rock project Lower Dens, and is a worthy release of modern indie music produced within its respective genre. But although their new album offers solid songwriting and swirling landscapes, it may still not be enough to draw in listeners that aren’t already fans. Their new release offers many lovely melodies, vocals, and high points, but ultimately lacks the focus to enjoyably absorb in one sitting. 

Full Review: Baltimore-based side project band Lower Dens have just released their sophomore album, Escape From Evil. Lower Dens was founded by Texas-born musician Jana Hunter as a way to make her personal songwriting efforts more audience-accessible through performances with a full band. She recruited guitarist Will Adams, bassist Geoff Graham, and drummer Abram Sanders to make this dream come true. Influenced by both the Baltimore indie scene and ambient psychedelic music, 2015 marks the third release of Lower Dens. The band will be performing at a number of festivals over the summer and touring the country, so we decided to take a listen. 

The opening track, “Sucker’s Shangri-La,” embodies warm melodies that float over a growing expanse of reverb. Despite the song’s chill tempo, the beats are on point and march forward into a cavern of sound faintly reminiscent of classic 80s alternative bands, in musical style. The second track, “Ondine,” leads with an immediate synth hook that stands out before the singer’s hopeful resolve to hold on and fight for a relationship to work out. The guitar work emerges in this track as shimmering and beautiful fade-out.

Next we have “To Die in LA,” an upbeat and fast-paced tale of misfortune that builds up to a multi-layered chorus of vocals that blend together perfectly. “Quo Vadis” is a pounding and emotional track; “We don’t always get what we want, no we don’t always get what we want,” yearns singer Jana Hunter. “Your Heart Still Beating” packs an adrenaline-punch buildup with anxiety-ridden lyrics to create the high point of the album – and also its longest song. 

“Electric Current” is full of rising synths that live up to the song’s title, amounting to a grooving jam of swirling guitars and lyrical uncertainty. “I Am the Earth” is perhaps the darkest point on the album, a song about holding onto regret long into the endless passage of time. Musically, it is the album’s leading ballad that bears a faint resemblance to OK-Computer era Radiohead, with added synths and reverb. “Non Grata” is a brief electro-rock jam followed by “Company,” a high-energy song that spirals to a halt before the closing track, “Société Anonyme.” The album ends on a high note in an ocean of reverb that drowns out the melody before fading away.

In conclusion, Escape From Evil proves to be Lower Dens’ most exciting release yet. Although not destined to be a highlight of the year, singer Jana Hunter brings a unique voice to the genre of electronic and synth-infused indie rock. The melodies are bright and the sounds are full and sparkling with layers upon layers; but despite its abrasive title, Escape From Evil results in a rather safe listen for the background of work, school, or day-to-day driving. 

The album’s first half will no doubt catch the listener’s attention but may fail to hold it through until the end. Nevertheless, Lower Dens’ latest offering is a solid example of technology’s impact on modern indie rock music – and the production is smooth and beautiful. They are a band with a lot of potential and, although reaction to their current release may ultimately fall between favorable and indifferent, the future is still an exciting prospect. 

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