Comprised of Jana Hunter, Geoff Graham, Abram Sanders and Will Adams, the Baltimore, MD-based quartet Lower Dens have released three full-length albums — 2010’s Twin Hand Movement, 2012’s Nootropics and 2015’s Escape from Evil — that were praised for a moody and atmospheric sound that’s reminiscent to fellow Baltimoreans Beach House. The band’s latest single “Real Thing,” is the first batch of original music since the Escape from Evil sessions and interestingly enough, the new single was written as a collaborative effort between Lower Dens’ Jana Hunter and fellow musicians and friends Arthur Bates and Ariel Rechtshaid, while being produced by Hunter and Rechtshaid and mixed by Henrik Iivari. As Hunter explains in press notes, “Initially, I wrote ‘Real Thing’ with my friend, musician Arthur Bates. Arthur and I have had a very long, intense, chaotic and very close friendship. He’s also been a major influence on me personally and artistically. I love him. When we’re together, the air is full of intense melancholy, reckless abandon, and a very goofy kind of dark humor. Somehow in our years of knowing each other we’d never written a real song together. We got together specifically for that purpose, in Houston, the town where we met, and wrote this song in about an hour. The lyrics were inspired by an advice column in an old copy of Oui magazine I found in Arthur’s apartment. The woman writing in to the column seemed genuinely torn between her love for her husband and her desire to fuck around. I find that kind of selfishness entirely relatable,” Hunter says, “the kind of thing all of us know about ourselves and find nearly impossible to admit. Those kinds of simultaneously internal and yet universal struggles bring me to tears. What if we could all acknowledge just those kinds of flaws, accept them, resolve not to judge each other? I mean, who wants this misery? This alienation? The greed that follows generations of repression? The jealously, oppression and injustice that come next? No. Hell no. If that’s reality, I don’t care to be a part of it. Or at least that’s how I let myself feel from time to time, until I realize I love people and I’m part of the community of humankind and if things are gonna be better for anybody it’s on me to do my part. Might seem like a lot but, for me, it’s all in this song.”
Sonically, the song pairs Hunter’s tender vocals with shimmering guitar chords, atmospheric synths and gently propulsive drumming while thematically and lyrically, the song’s narrator comes to the bitter realization that they have to make a difficult decision — maintain a relationship but have it rooted in an uncomfortable and uneasy compromise that they are largely uncomfortable with; or leave that relationship for an uncertain future in which they may actually have the freedom to live the life they want. Either way, the love they feel for that person can never be enough and both sides know it. Both decisions are frightening and on some level, those decisions are always at the core of any and romantic relationship. And as a result, the band carefully walks the tightrope between wistful melancholy, a lingering bitterness and an urgently swooning ache.
The recently released video was produced by SSION and employs the use of hazy early 80s synth pop videos as the song has Hunter performing in an empty studio as the video cuts to hazier and hot florescent lit footage of couples and other folks dancing at a club, and of Hunter playing guitar and singing, sometimes in different colored suits. Interestingly, Hunter sings the song’s most devastating lines to herself in a mirror, which emphasizes the song’s loneliness while also emphasizing the fact that the song’s narrator is faced with a difficult decision.