Two years is a long time. A lot of things can happen in two years; jobs are gained and lost, hearts swollen and broken, the Facebook layout changed. In July 2010 Baltimore’s Lower Dens released their debut album Twin Hand Movement, a subtle but brilliant collection of stunning and intelligent songs. Since then the band has toured constantly, gained new members, and put in the work on a follow up, the oddly titled Nootropics.
Named after the group of smart drugs that enhance human ability, Lower Dens are already leaving themselves open to some prime comparisons. But this album really does offer a great progression from their previous efforts.
Written on the road using a laptop and keyboard, the band decided against re-writing their initial lines for guitars, instead enlisting an additional member and a studio with a wealth of ageing electronics. And the results are stunning. Krautrock keys and metronomic drums beats clash with a flood of warm guitars and Hunter’s thick and steady vocals. There are hints of hometown contemporaries Beach House, as well as label cohort Anna Calvi, but this is still very much a Lower Dens record. ‘Brains’ feels like an extension of Twin-Hand Movement’s ‘Tea-Lights’, and there’s no mistaking the fact that ‘Lion in Winter Pt. 2’ was spawned from the same pen that gave us ‘A Dog’s Dick’.
There is one subtle difference from Lower Dens’ previous music to be found amongst Nootropics’ ten tracks, and it’s a pretty simple one: fun. This feels like a fun record. And that’s not to discredit any of the brilliance or ambition it offers; it has the echoes of a band that have found their feet and learnt to enjoy the footing. If Lower Dens continue to make music at the same rate of progression, the likely excellence of their next record is almost unthinkable. Nootropics is one class act to follow.
Two years is a long time, but very much worth the wait.