Lower Dens have always possessed a thousand-yard stare, the steadying force behind their percussive, atmospheric pop. That intensity helped direct their previous album ‘Nootropics’, a glimmering piece of pop that featured heady synth and percussion. But adroit rockers at heart, on their third release the Baltimore-based group go full Lynchian. ‘Escape From Evil’ is stylishly sinister release, evoking both the iconic director’s fevered dream aesthetic and ability to display the seedy underbelly of even the most polished of exteriors. It also happens to be a fun, well-produced listen (thanks to the combined talents of producer/polishers Chris Coady, Ariel Reichtstad and John Congleton) - because who said serious and likeable are mutually exclusive?
Although not quite ‘Mulholland Drive’, lead single ‘To Die in L.A.’ sets the tone for the album, its propulsive, big-city undertow highlighting the cracked dreams under the California sun. Frontwoman Jana Hunter delivers lines such as “I’m not crying / I’m just glad to be alive / Time will turn the tide,” in a husky, androgynous alto, expressing while still coming across as the kind of femme fatale who wouldn’t be knocked over by a single “silencio.” Her intensity carries over to ’I Am Earth’, a sparse, drum and bass built slow-burner that, at its apex, trades hooks for a series of coos delivered with the breathy exhalation of a post-coital cigarette. For a band that dabbled in Krautrock, piled on the atmosphere, and turned their amps up to eleven, ‘Escape From Evil’ may be a surprising third act. But for listeners craving substance served side-by-side with flash, Lower Dens’ world is one worth exploring. The band may be at their most accessible, but they’re not about to make it easy.
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