Song of the Day: Lower Dens - Brains

photo by Sean Donnola

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased tracks, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s selection, featured on the Morning Show with John Richards, is “Brains” by Lower Dens from the forthcoming album Nootropics on Ribbon Music.

Lower Dens - Brains (MP3)

Like much of the repertoire of Baltimore band Lower Dens, the melodies aren’t about the vocals and lyrics as much as they are the instrumentation. In a lot of ways, Lower Dens vaguely resembles the xx. The simplicity of the arrangement gives each guitar line and each drum change a unique characterization. Band frontwoman Jana Hunter’s style keeps things fresh and refreshing, even with a fairly typical set of sounds. Today’s featured song, “Brains,” is no exception to this and is a great example of the emotion that the band is capable of evoking.

Akin to the singles from Lower Dens’ first LP, Twin-Hand Movement, “Brains” emphasizes a minimalist guitar lead and the similarly subtle yet effective vocal melody of Jana Hunter (who is already an accomplished solo artist). A quick marching snare taps away as Hunter’s elegantly simple guitar riffs reverberate in the foreground. As the song reaches the halfway point, the passion builds, as does the tension. The guitar feels more hurried and the vocals more anxious. Finally, a ride cymbal kicks in as the song builds and builds and builds. And when there is no more room to build, the song fades, refusing to resolve any anxiety or haste. Ultimately, “Brains” is haunting and memorable, echoing the excellent and epic song structure of some of Arcade Fire’s more memorable tracks like “In The Backseat” and “Vampire/Forest Fire”.

KEXP listeners should take note: joining singer-guitarist Jana Hunter, guitarist William Adams, and bassist Geoffrey Graham are new drummer Nate Nelson and keyboardist Carter Tanton (a talented songwriter and performer himself, who has appeared several times live at KEXP and on one of our Live at KEXP compilations).

Lower Dens’ Nootropics will be available in North America on May 1 on CD and double LP through Domino Records imprint Ribbon Music. A limited copy “Brains” 10″ single will be available on March 27 (you can preorder it here). Currently, the band is knocking around the Northeast, playing shows and getting warmed up for SXSW. Then they’ll head over to Europe. There aren’t any dates scheduled for those of us on the West Coast, but keep checking Lower Dens’ Facebook page for more. Until then, watch the new video for “Brains” right now:

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