Lower Dens is the latest project of eccentric-folk artist Jana Hunter. The songs characteristically pulse and build; but the defining feature for this five person band from Baltimore is Hunters alto voice, alternating between rolling, low sounds to piercing, beautiful cries. It’s the sure driver of the music, but it’s embedded in the instrumentation rather than overlayed. Nootropics, released May 2012, is not significantly different from their debut, Twin-Hand Movement, release in 2010. Except that the band seems to have matured, doing a better job on this latest release highlighting their strongest features, namely, Hunter’s voice. This song, “Brains,” is the catchy single that gave most people their first introduction to Lower Dens.
Artist: Beach House
I never imagined an album in the genre “dream pop” would make the list for potential album of the year. But if the year ended tomorrow, Beach House’s Bloom would win. I surprised myself with how much I liked Teen Dream, which came out about two years ago. Their latest, Bloom, with the sad, floating, beautiful opener “Myth,” and similarly powerfully melancholy tracks, is more tethered to the ground than their previous albums, and it suits them, giving their emotional songs more punch. And Beach House’s most distinct feature, the characteristically feathery, yet impressively fierce, vocals are still the most prominent and important element of their musical style, and even more pronounced than before. Overall this album is another segment in a fantastic crescendo for this duo.