"Two Cocks Waving Wildly At Each Other Across A Vast Open Space, A Dark Icy Tundra"
"I Get Nervous"
"What Isn't Nature"
I'm hardly an expert when it comes to design, but I know what I like when I see it. (I have seen Helvetica, after all. Twice!) But I do take notice when a great album cover catches my eye and makes me want to open it up and listen. We get sent hundreds of CDs a week, and sometimes you come to rely on judging the book by its cover as a strategy to filter through the stacks. So when I saw the cover to Lower Dens' Twin Hand Movement — with its black-and-white photograph of a scenic mountain view and simple typeface — it was enough to draw me in. As soon as I heard the songs, I knew it was one of my favorite records of the year.
For me, the music of Lower Dens fits that first impression: It's dark and evocative, but also spacious and hypnotic, with swaths of feedback and echoing guitars. At the heart of the band is Jana Hunter, a Texas-born, Baltimore-based singer and songwriter whose delicate voice haunts every song. And though it can be difficult to decipher her lyrics, her melodic delivery — and the cathartic mood it captures — makes her music inviting.
Needless to say, I was excited to bring in Hunter and her band for a Tiny Desk Concert and see how they would winnow down that blissful sound in such an intimate setting. The humble fragility can immediately be felt in their songs. Without the aid of reverb, Hunter's voice sounds more raw and understated, the rhythm section leaner. You can even hear Hunter shyly whisper to bassist Geoff Graham between songs, "This is fun." Still, Lower Dens' members were able to bring enough of their personality — not to mention their homemade stompbox guitar pedals — to enrapture the NPR Music offices with an ethereal wash of sound.