‘The Competition’
4.0Overall Score

Following their critically-acclaimed third album, Escape from Evil, Lower Dens return four years later with an unabashedly pop and charming new album, The Competition.

The Baltimore dream pop masterminds, now downsized to a duo, have always been outwardly speaking about one’s identity, social responsibility and queer visibility. And their latest work makes sure that we aren’t disconnected from any political or social context. 

According to vocalist Jana Hunter, The Competition critiques modern capitalism and tackles the insecurities and anxieties that are bestowed upon us. Being raised in a family and a culture that fed on this competitive mindset, Hunter stressed the necessity of “socially de-conditioning ourselves and learning how to be people.” 

Their driving single ‘Young Republican’ throws shade on ring-wing oppressors: “We lift our heads, we lift our heads and see the world is burning,” Hunter sings. Its lush and dense textures take roots in you, send a wave of reverberation and take you on a synth-infused galactic trip. And in ‘Empire Sundown’, Hunter questions the plutocrats, singing: “They, they don’t care what they do to us, my friend. Our tears are wine to them.”

Musically speaking, ‘Two Faced Love’ comes in as the most daring one that gets you right up to the edge of catharsis. The duo continues to explore the idea of twisted love in ‘Real Thing’. The song was inspired by an advice column in an old copy of Oui magazine, where a married woman was having second thought about her monogamous marriage. Hence, “But I just love to get out and get it on. I don’t wanna live possessed by a memory.” When love and greed aren’t mutually exclusive, what do you choose? 

The Competition is perhaps Lower Dens’ most fervent album. It’s a constant yearning for something greater. Identifying as a non-binary person, Hunter explained she’s undergoing both medical and social transitions after a long period of repressing herself. Once again, you find strength in Lower Dens’ music—you should/can come to self-acceptance of who you are despite what the rest of the world is preaching. Because the world just isn’t as smart as you would think.  

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