By releasing not one, but two sterling records last year, Baltimore’s dreampop duo Beach House deservedly received a ton of acclaim from critics and love from fans. The albums maintained a near-flawless run of releases (there really isn’t a non-great one in the bunch), and both landed on numerous year-end best-of lists. Still, I can’t help but think that the success of Beach House has steered some attention away from one of Baltimore’s other great bands, Lower Dens.
Led by the fearless Jana Hunter, Lower Dens combine a love for krautrock beats and lush, expansive, ’80s-style pop. Their 2012 release, Nootropics, owed just as much to Echo and the Bunnymen as it did to Neu! (as evidenced by the album standout, the unstoppable, Motoriking “Brains”), and their criminally-overlooked 2015 album Escape from Evil maintained that same unlikely aesthetic. The successor to “Brains,” Escape From Evil’s “To Die in L.A.” is an album anchor, featuring the same implacable pacing and gorgeous, Cure-like guitars.
While Nootropics had plenty of dark moments, Escape from Evil seems to up the ante, casting a particularly ominous presence, with Joy Division and Berlin-era Bowie atmospherics creating a scary, alien feel. The album is undeniably magnetic though, begging for multiple listens.
In a perfect future world, Lower Dens will one day realize the fame and recognition of their sister-band from Baltimore (and hopefully they’ll reclaim some of their recently-stolen gear.) Until then, fans will get the benefit of seeing them perform live in smaller venues like the Independent, where they’ll take the stage on March 3. This band doesn’t deserve to be in the shadow of any other group (even Beach House), and the show on Thursday should be proof of that.
March 3, 2016