Escape From Evil feels like a breezy reprieve from the dense, claustrophobic world of Lower Dens’ previous album, the dark masterpiece Nootropics. On that 2012 record, singer/songwriter Jana Hunter wanted to create this world within the grooves. A world not easily found. Only after a few spins did that record’s genius show itself. With Escape From Evil it feels as if Lower Dens have opened the shades and let some light shine in. It’s gloriously catchy and shimmers like a cross between Talk Talk and Cliff Martinez’ Drive S/T. There’s nothing to dig through on here. Even the dark lyrical content can’t bring this album into the doldrums. Escape From Evil will slink into your brain and not be easily exorcised.
Jana Hunter has a unique voice. It’s gruff yet smooth. She can carry a pop melody beautifully and not burn you out with saccharine-y overzealous abandon. “Suckers Shangri-la” has an almost Til Tuesday sway to it. Shimmering synths, reverbed percussion, and processed guitars give you the impression we’ve set the wayback machine for 1982. Slight touches of melancholy permeate the chorus. It’s mournful pop gloom. “Ondine” is subtle and longing as Hunter sings “I’ll treat you better”, either a cry for a second chance or a chance to do better than the current lover. This holds some of Nootropics dark motorik tendencies, but with more emphasis on the radio dial. “To Die In L.A.” is almost giddy in its upbeat rhythm and Hunter’s exquisite vocals. The War On Drugs and Merchandise aren’t the only current artists that can ape the best of the 80s beautifully. Lower Dens proves a true knack for recreating the decade of neon lights, Michael Mann, and gated reverb.
Lower Dens gives in to their pop tendencies completely on this album, and it’s a beautiful thing. “Quo Vadis”, “Your Heart Still Beating”, and “Non Grata” are all steeped in electro grooves, 80s dance floor lights, and an unabashed love of melody. “Company” has a krautrock backbone and jagged synths that buzz in your ears as Hunter anchors the song firmly for us to crawl inside of and get lost in. The chorus has a gallop to it that is hard not to get lost in.
From start to finish, Lower Dens’ Escape From Evil is a catchy, pop-fueled record that captivates and sucks you in. When a band can take the essence of the 80s and use that decade’s musically sunny disposition and mix it with the earthier, darker elements of what’s transpired within those 30 years in-between it can be a riveting listen. The War On Drugs, Merchandise, and Diana are bands that take that love of the 80s and can reinvent it into something new, creative, and vital. Lower Dens has done that as well, and quite masterfully.
8.5 out of 10