Throwing on the supreme thudding of Lower Dens’ 2010 debut, Twin Hand Movement, getting lost amid instrumentals like “Holy Water” or just listening to Jana Hunter croon on “Truss Me” could make listeners think the band was capable of just about anything. The occasionally motorik backbone to its 2012 follow-up, Nootropics, was a sleek departure—one that was readily perceptible and even a bit jarring. The band’s latest, Escape from Evil, though, creates even greater distance between what the quartet was half a decade back and what it’s striving to become.
Fated to be an East Coast staple, the Baltimore-birthed band set its sights on Los Angeles—for at least one song, “To Die in L.A.” Whether it’s a play on the experimental To Live & Shave in L.A. is perhaps immaterial. But the song—or any song on Escape from Evil, really—is about self-doubt and grappling with emotion. Hunter often confronts an unnamed gentleman, writing from the perspective of a protagonist who’s recently been estranged from the addressee.
“I will still be here spinning/ long after you are gone,” Hunter sings on “I Am the Earth,” with the planet serving as some grand metaphor. Unfortunately, the song, which comes off like incidental music suited to the pending Twin Peaks reboot, ends with Hunter profoundly figuring, “Hold on to/ the ones you love.”
Music doesn’t need to be haughty or academic to provoke emotion. Perhaps just the opposite—everyone from Buddy Holly to the Ramones had that figured. On earlier albums, Hunter hid some of her lesser lyrics behind a wall of six-string reverb. Despite her voice remaining as resonant as it’s ever been, her weaker lines are plain and unbecoming set within this synthy milieu.