Review: Lower Dens, Escape From Evil

Jana Hunter goes deeper and synthier than ever before.
lower dens

opinion byAUSTIN REED

“Let go,” Jana Hunter coaxes charitably on “Ondine,” the second single from Lower Dens’ third full-length record Escape From Evil. “I will treat you better.” Though not technically the track’s first lyrics, this ball’s-in-your-court mentality guides every second of “Ondine,” beseeching personal forgiveness and acceptance en route to emotional watershed.

Especially considering that “Ondine,” is the catchiest track on the album, this kind of theme and imagery is remarkably swollen. It weighs a ton, and it’s oddly shaped, which makes it a track you want to recommend and criticize in the same breath. Is it an issue? Technically yes, but it’s really the best kind of issue you could possibly hope for. When was the last time you heard someone say, “The song is fun, but the lyrics are just too heavy.”

What I find most captivating about Escape From Evil, however, is how this sentiment seems to bleed not only into one or two tracks, but into the entire album. When you say, “escape from evil,” in your head, you almost immediately assume that “evil,” is something much better averted altogether. But in the case of Evil, letting go and moving on and progressing seem less like instructions for successful living and more like heightened recommendations — as though escaping from evil is more voluntary than crucial.

I suppose that was the point. Jana Hunter has never taken issue with her ability to express herself. Her resume would tell you that much just by glancing at it, and Twin Hand Movement, Lower Dens’ debut LP, received copious acclaim for marrying the soul and shimmer of Hunter’s androgynous alto with a synth-inspired aesthetic that to this day seem perfect for each other. So when Hunter suggests that escaping from evil is optional, she’s likely speaking on behalf of her own experiences.

For this reason, it’s hard to write off Escape From Evil as misleading. The title may be a little hyperbolic, but what it lacks in realism it makes up for in groovy new-wave guitar licks, other-worldly instrumentation and production par excellence. Hunter, meanwhile, has never sounded more confident, moving in and out of highlight tracks “To Die in L.A.,” “Quo Vadis,” and “Electric Current,” with poignant togetherness and impressive emotional wherewithal. B