Lower Dens: Confidently Embracing Hypnotic Pop

Lower Dens' third album, Escape From Evil, is out March 31 via Ribbon Music. (Frank Hamilton/Courtesy of the artist)
Lower Dens’ third album, Escape From Evil, is out March 31 via Ribbon Music. (Frank Hamilton/Courtesy of the artist)

Whether in her early years as an inward-looking and confessional songwriter, or as the enigmatic creative center of Lower Dens, Jana Hunter has always seemed like a mysterious, reserved figure. Content to mask her voice amid the foggy, blissed-out atmosphere of the Baltimore band, Hunter came off like a shy frontwoman on stage, tolerating the attention because she was driven to perform as a means to push through her own anxiety and internal darkness.

Yet with each successive record, Hunter has reinvented her sound — from the wiry, discordant guitar melodies of 2010’s Twin Hand Movement to the hypnotic keyboards of 2012’s Nootropics — and revealed more and more of her true self in the process. And now, with Lower Dens’ just-announced third album, Escape From Evil, she’s begun to project the bold artistic poise of an ethereal, if still haunted pop singer.

That’s particularly true on the new song “To Die In L.A.”

Out March 31, Escape From Evil was produced by Hunter, along with frequent co-producer and mixer Chris Coady, and contributions from Lower Dens’ Walker Teret, Chris Freeland — and producers Ariel Rechtshaid and John Congleton. And as one might expect with those names, “To Die In L.A.” is as richly layered and overtly pop-sounding as anything the band has made yet. You can hear it right away in the way her effervescent vocal harmonies, once buried in the mix, soar front and center over those repeating synthy arpeggios and crisp guitar lines. And as she repeatedly sings the hook “Time will turn the tide,” Hunter has rarely before been so confident in her own skin.

It’s seems like I’ve been a fan of Jana Hunter since nearly the beginning, and it’s been rewarding to hear the progression in her immersive music, and watch her speak out on issues in the music industry, LGBTQI rights, and about her own personal life. So it’s fantastic to hear Escape From Evil as her latest evolution, one that primes Lower Dens for a much-deserved breakout year to come.