Baltimore indie group Lower Dens use synths to navigate a complex world on The Competition | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Baltimore indie group Lower Dens use synths to navigate a complex world on The Competition 

click to enlarge Lower Dens

Lower Dens

Courtesy the Artist

Lower Dens emerged out of Baltimore’s fertile underground music scene in 2010, and they’ve since built a catalog of immersive, slow-boiling indie rock elevated by Jana Hunter’s inviting, resonant vocals. During the first half of the 2010s, they dropped three albums, which makes the four-year gap between 2015’s Escape From Evil and last year’s The Competition (Ribbon Music) feel like an eternity. Just before releasing Escape From Evil, Hunter wrote a Tumblr post identifying as genderfluid and discussing their history of struggling to fit into the gender binary; in the ensuing years, they underwent testosterone therapy, and Hunter now uses they/them and him/his pronouns. The band re-emerged with a newly streamlined lineup, slimming down from the five musicians involved in Escape From Evil to a duo of Hunter and drummer Nate Nelson on The Competition. The album’s dreamy songs employ a battery of synths that gives them a new-wave sparkle, while Hunter dishes out lyrical dissections of the current socioeconomic hellscape. When Hunter sings about impending societal collapse under capitalism atop an ersatz symphony of grand synths on “Empire Sundown,” their sharp, defiant vocals suggest that we can find solace in one another—and that we’ll have to.   v

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