Highlights: Brains, Propagation, Nova Anthem
Like pretty much everyone else, I’m tempted to compare these guys to Beach House (weather that’s a downgrading insult or a flattering compliment is, of course a different matter). Nootropics (the band's second album) – a good title, by the way – is certainly dream pop, albeit one with a less sweet, darker, more experimental edge to it.
Having said that, it’s surely a pretty inspired, if claustrophobic, ride through empty streets and murky, half-lit rooms. The unassuming, quietly seductive opener “Alphabet Song” sets the mood nicely, but the following “Brains” with its underpinning robotic drum beat and ethereal vocals is a slow-burning triumph. Then clever, almost-playful keyboards of the short instrumental “Stem” give way to another classic, “Propagation”, which moves us further into gothic territory. Might have been woeful were it not for the beautiful, beguiling melodies floating around this thing. The first side is actually near flawless, but Lower Dens seem determined to shrug off any accusations of that sort.
The mood is indeed primarily dark (dreams substituted with nightmares), and seems to get darker and more experimental as the album progresses. The two-part “Lion In Winter” is all shadows and gloom, and the closing “In The End Is The Beginning” is a lengthy, atmospheric epic of somber grandeur and, sadly, little substance.
I guess I’m supposed to compare it to Bloom, in which case I’d say it loses a bit in terms of sheer melodic delight. However, it does create its own world. Maybe not one you’d want to spend much time in, but definitely an addictive, intriguing one and one well worth exploring. I’d say that Nootropics has grown on me quite a bit. Beach House? Yes, but with a touch of Sonic Youth.