Tuesday, March 5, 2013

New Favourite: Lower Dens



I stumbled across word of Lower Dens when, this year, Yo La Tengo announced the Baltimore indie-rock group would be opening on their Fade tour. Sadly, I couldn't catch the Toronto show, but I could spare a few minutes to look into the band who've drawn some noteworthy comparisons and scored big touring spots alongside several bands I love dearly.

Five songs into the two-disc history of Lower Dens, I was hooked.

Similar to my (many moons ago) initial experience of not realizing that Victoria Legrand was actually the raspy front(wo)man of Beach House, when I first heard Lower Dens' "Tea Lights," I found myself having the same sneaking suspicion that the throaty vocalist was a woman. Sure enough, it turned out to be Devendra Banhart collaborator and label-mate Jana Hunter, a folk singer and guitarist known for her own two full-length albums and other contributions, who in 2009 returned to the scene with Lower Dens as her latest studio endeavour.

Lower Dens is pleasantly cut from the same pretty, atmospheric cloth as many other indie rock groups I'm partial to. With the same soaring, low-fi layers that make fellow Baltimore natives Beach House magical, and a whispery alto comparable to PJ Harvey or Legrand, Lower Dens achieve a dimly lit intimacy similar to what's heard on the xx's dreamiest jams. Their music flows in really unpredictable, but beautiful, waves; while some songs are groggier with Hunter's bellow blending throughout, others feature bouncy bass lines and romantic chords right out of The Walkmen's ballad book. Needless to say, after dropping this (probably annoying) amount of highly respectably comparisons in under 100 words, it should, hopefully, be clear that Lower Dens haven't even scraped the surface of what they're capable of.

Here are two standouts from their 2010 debut Twin Hand Movement, and two from 2012's Nootropics:







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