Showing posts with label lower dens. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lower dens. Show all posts

Friday, January 1, 2016

the top 50 best songs of 2015

And now we're onto the list that's always the hardest for me to make, mostly because it requires by far the most work: the best songs of the year, overall. Not just hits, but singles and deep cuts from album ranging from widely successful to barely out of the underground.

And this year was harder than most, mostly because it was a damn great year for music. The charts may have been strong, but that was nothing compared to the cavalcade of great music we got, which meant that cutting this list down from thousands to around 630 to 165 to the fifty we have meant that there were a lot of painful cuts, so much so that I seriously considered instituting a one-song-per-album rule. In the end... I couldn't do it, because there were some records that were so unbelievably good that I had to include multiple entries. Now we'll be covering those albums in greater detail a bit later this week, but in the end I held to the rule that at most I could put three songs from any one album on this list - and that we easily had more of those makes my argument that was a damn solid year of music, probably better than last year's, all the more powerful. 

One more thing before we start: while I can describe music well and why it works for me on a technical level, most of the songs on this list cut a fair bit deeper than that, and thus I'll endeavor to provide some emotional context as to why they worked so well beyond a purely intellectual exercise. And of course it's my picks - there might some common overlap between my choices and other critics, but it would be disingenuous to choose tracks for 'cultural importance' rather than what really got to me more deeply.

So let's start with a track that completely threw me off-guard.

Monday, May 4, 2015

video review: 'escape from evil' by lower dens

And that's two. Much better, and seriously a slept-on record.

Next up... damn, I might as well talk about Mumford & Sons. Stay tuned!

album review: 'escape from evil' by lower dens

So there are some indie acts that just fly under the radar and nobody beyond the hardcore fanbase seems to know. I've barely gotten requests for this act, the buzz has been negligible, and even despite the fact this new record has been very well-received, nobody besides critics seems to care.

And this is something I've noticed about certain acts getting critical acclaim - it rarely means much at all for the actual act outside of very specific circumstances, and it needs to be spread wide enough to drive buzz. But even with that it might not be enough - I can think of a slew of indie acts that because they didn't get the right big performance or that huge hit single, they might have the love of critics but nobody else. Even in the age of the internet, where certain sites like Pitchfork want to define the narrative of what is popular, or where we have music critics who have accumulated enough subscribers to nearly reach half a million people, it's not often enough.

So with all of that in mind, let's talk a little about Lower Dens. Beginning with a shoestring budget in Baltimore in 2010, their debut album immediately reminded me a lot of The War On Drugs in terms of the spacious, hazy shoegaze-inspired mix and willowy vocals of Jana Hunter, but that's where the similarities ended. For one, the bass and guitar tones were far more reminiscent of post-punk, and the melodic grooves were simply phenomenally balanced against the crisp, stripped back percussion. They added more electronic elements with Nootropics in 2012, which eased back some of the haze and added sharper, more defined grooves and some synthesizers, and while I definitely think it's a damn great album, I think I liked their debut a tad more, although songs like 'Brains', 'Lamb', and especially 'Candy' were huge standouts.

And when I heard they were heading towards even more of a pop-friendly direction... well, to be honest, I was a bit mixed on it. I had no doubt in my mind that Lower Dens could write some stellar hooks if pressed for it, but I didn't want to see them shoved towards synthpop like so many other bands in their vein and lose some of their unique identity. So what did we get from Escape From Evil?