Music Reviews
Escape From Evil

Lower Dens Escape From Evil

(Ribbon Music) Rating - 8/10

I get the feeling that Lower Dens have been at the brunt end of thin Beach House comparisons for as long as they’ve been around, and in almost no case is it ever really called for. Sure, they both fit some pretty loose-fitting genre tags – art pop, dream pop, indie pop – but save for the uncannily similar dusky vocal approaches of Jana Hunter and Beach House’s Victoria Legrand, the similarities largely end there. Where Beach House have virtually perfected the art of woozy, narcotic slow-gaze where soft, vibrant tones melt together in a radiant blur, Lower Dens have always taken a more austere, steely approach to ethereal pop that was significantly more indebted to krautrock than shoegaze. Sure, their 2012 breakthrough Nootropics excelled in many dream-pop hallmarks – gauzy textures, Disintegration-esque guitars, and Hunter’s amorphous croon – but all these elements were pulled together with tight, motoric precision, often allowing an icy, industrial chill to quell their otherwise dreamy warmth.

But with the band’s third and by far most accessible album, those comparisons might be slightly more warranted, and I mean that in the best way possible. Though Escape From Evil is undoubtedly cut from a similar cloth as anything Lower Dens have done before, the nuts and bolts feel significantly and refreshingly loosened, allowing the band's body heat to radiate and thaw out the frozen humanity encased in their ice for so long. It’s true that the band’s rhythm section is as tight and punctual as ever, but here, it’s really the lush, vibrant melodies and the actual songs themselves that are thrust into the forefront. Lower Dens have written accessible songs before (Nootropics stand-out Brains, for instance), but nothing they’ve ever done has scraped the instant catchiness and perfect builds of To Die In L.A., it’s motoric drums tucked well underneath it’s blushing, rose-tinted synth and guitar lines.

Aesthetically, one could argue that Lower Dens aren’t really pushing any boundaries here, and the diminishing of their industrial, krautrock influences for a leaner, more “80’s” sound could come off as a compromise to some. But on Escape From Evil, Hunter & co. choose to valiantly own rather than borrow these nostalgic sounds by getting as varied use out of them as possible. Some think you can only get so much mileage out of guitars and synths, but with Lower Dens’ streamlined aesthetic we’re granted night-driving anthems (Sucker’s Shangri-La, Quo Vadis), woozy, bleeding-heart ballads (Ondine), dreary slow-burners (I Am The Earth), urgent, charged rock bursts (Company), and just flat-out great pop songs (To Die In L.A., Société Anonyme). In this heavily diverse and crowded world of indie rock, it’s easy to point fingers and declare witch hunts on this buzz band for sounding like that buzz band and vice-versa, but look past the pastel surface-level familiarity of Escape From Evil and you’ll find that no matter what tool-kit a band is equipped with, superb songwriting and refined attention to detail and aesthetics always prevail.