Lower Dens – Nootropics A Review

Lower Dens are a new wave synth band that call Baltimore Maryland home. It is hard to call something new wave anymore given that the genre has been around for over twenty years and all it is hardly new at this point. Perhaps it’s better to call bands with qualities similar to the great new wave originals Joy Division or The Cure by some other genre moniker, something like: The Children of The Wave or just Nue Wave (or maybe something less awful than those suggestions). The lead singer of Lower Dens is Texas native Jana Hunter, her voice is really the centerpiece of their latest album Nootropics. She has this earthy alto voice that sounds dark and burdened, exuding the qualities and characteristics that suggest an unfulfilled desire to be set free.  The melodies that line each of the tracks of Nootropics have this nice droning feel to them matched with compelling synth riffs. You get the sense that the power which is released in tracks like Brains and Candy rests in the tight rhythmic buildup. What this does is it takes the listener on a dimly lit musical journey, leading to a subtly impactful apex. Simply put the result is good, very good, which for those who have been paying attention to the new music being released so far this year is far too rare of a thing.

Lower Dens may be a relatively new band having only come into being in 2009 but they have managed to make something of value with Nootropics. The best examples of Lower Dens talents can be found in the tracks Brains, Candy and Nova Anthem all of which are must listens for anyone looking to extend their musical libraries. 


Sentridoh | Taking a Look At Weed Forestin’

Sentridoh was a side project of the bassist for Dinosaur Jr. Lou Barlow way back in 1990 and the album Weed Forestin’ has now been rereleased in several different formats including a version in all its original cassette glory. What has been rereleased is not the original version of Weed Forestin’, it has been remastered, although it is hard to think of this album as something that has been smoothed out. The ultra low-fi sound that encapsulates the style of this album is often duplicated and mimicked by current bands who try so desperately to make their digitally produced music have the characteristics of something that has come from an analog medium.  It’s hard to blame imitators for wanting their music to sound like that of Barlow’s, the background hisses and pops like that of an original Billie Holiday album. The charm of Weed Forestin’ is in the imperfections in the songs, an off note here and there and spoken word portion that starts as a poetic exploration of love and needs, only to end abruptly in brief self-deprecating jag.  Knowing that this album released over two decades ago only puts into perspective the impact this low-fi style of indie folk has had on the culture at large.

The track Subtle Holy Gift is filled with this breezy guitar matched with simple drum rhythm, its playful nature sets the tone for the whole album. The falsetto sung throughout the track tells the listener that this music is not to be taken, oh so seriously. It is supposed to be fun, and it is. Then there is Whitey Peach which could be best described as an honest acoustic love ballad for all those “horny young apes” out there. The thing which is attractive about this album is just how short and sweet almost all of the tracks are with only one song on the whole album cracking the three minute mark. It is as if the whole album is more or less a sample of things to come, of ideas and riffs for songs that would go on to be written by Barlow in a more articulated manner.   

It may be that what really allures people to music found on Weed Forestin’ is that it charms the listener into believing that if they had the proper inspiration they too could make an album to similar effect as Weed Forestin’. This is not true.  The idea that every aspiring musician has a great album or even a good song in them, is just not realistic, most people lack the ability to articulate whatever it is within them that might be worth sharing to others.  That being said, Lou Barlow seems to have created something in Weed Forestin’ which has managed to survive the twenty some years that it has existed and still remain an engaging listening experience.  


Freddie Nunez | A Review of Runaway

Freddie Nunez a musician from Moreno Valley, California and with his latest release, Runaway he now has three self-released albums under his belt. The latest was put out this past January and is filled with mellow gold. His style is very friendly to those who associate their music listening time with a good time to relax. Runaway is filled with tracks that provide a great escape for the listener and do so with a distinctive and accessible manner.   

Freddie Nunez seems to take some of his musical cues for this album from the early work of Seattle’s Band of Horses, in the way some of his songs echo a soulful and restrained presence like he has spent a life time patiently standing in the rain waiting for his bus to arrive.  Then there is the track Sun which has much more of a Radiohead feel to it as a result of the extended guitar and rhythm interludes accompanied by haunting simple vowel laced vocals. Let’s not compare Freddie Nunez music directly to Radiohead though since that would be an oversimplification and we wouldn’t want anyone’s head getting too big. Also, the album isn’t so derivative though that it lacks any of its own charm, the track Lion’s Den has a very subtle but satisfying hook in the way Freddie executes the chorus, “How they chase me out”.    

All and all Freddie Nunez latest album Runaway is well worth the $5 it costs to download it from his Bandcamp page. As well if you like Runaway there are other projects of his available for download at a “name your price” rate, which is always a plus.