Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lower Dens - Nootropics (2012)

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Baltimore's Lower Dens have never really been the type of band that strives for accessibility at least judging from their 2010 debut Twin-Hand Movement. So when the first single "Brains" off the sophomore album Nootropics came out, with it's catchy drive and far less chilly composition, I was a bit taken aback though not offput. Would the band's sophomore album be a more pop-oriented affair? It was anyone's guess even when slowburning second single "Propagation" came out. But with the release of the album of Nootropics a week ago we finally got our answer.

Five minute album opener "Alphabet Song" makes it incredibly clear that pop isn't even an option - as it winds and bends along with Jana Hunter's unaffected vocals. When "Brains" starts with it's slightly more cohesive, upbeat jangle it seems to be the only move that makes sense - even as it spirals out into "Stem", an instrumental track that builds on the prevalent riff in "Brains".

With Nootropics, Lower Dens continue to march to the beat of their own drummer and wonderfully so - a logical continuation of Twin-Hand Movement in that each song takes its time. A collection of jams that could very well go on forever but that they band restrain into 5 minute chunks - more freedom than majority of tracks on Twin-Hand Movement were given. A yet there's more to it than that, on their second album there's far more emotional depth achieved by Jana Hunter in songs like "Lamb", "Candy" and "Nova Anthem". It's an album in every sense of the word, with each song tied to each other by more than just its place on the album - each track makes coherent sense. There's no throwaway track here, not even 12 minute album closer "In the End is the Beginning".

Nootropics is an album that makes it own rules and benefits greatly from it - a sonically similar set of tunes that undoubtedly just work together. All the songs aren't as catchy as "Brains" but they're all highly memorable (especially more than almost every song on their debut). There's no if/ands/or buts about it, they album just fits and you'll be hard-pressed not to listen to the whole thing again and again on repeat.

You can listen to Lower Dens' Nootropics on Spotify. Also get a taste with the video for second single "Propagation":

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