Nootropics is the second album in a four-album cycle from Lower Dens, after their previous album, Twin-Hand Movement. The album title refers to a memory-enhancing drug, but more-so transhumanism, which deals with the pros and cons of technology in bettering human life.
Opening track, “Alphabet Song,” evokes a sense of eerie hopelessness, and lyrically seems to discuss human evolution in relation to nature and the cosmos. In fact, the entire album deals with broad issues.
Says songwriter Jana Hunter, “We’re creating a world to help our species survive and make our lives easier, but if we continue down this path it will destroy us. And that might seem bitterly sad, but I prefer to see our options and our potential.”
“Brains” seems to discuss a breakdown followed by a drowning, which makes it rather dark, yet the last verse tells us, “Don’t be afraid.” “Propagation” is a slow, ambrosial number about reproduction, or rather, whether procreating should be considered a positive force, while “Lamb” seems to be a dirge about everyday sacrifice.
“Nova Anthem” is the most beautiful song on the album next to the 12-minute-long closer, “In the End is the Beginning.” This last track transports listeners to another world – the narrator is transformed from what seems to be an earthly life into the life of an animal in the sea.
“Lion in Winter, Pt. 2” is probably the only danceable song on this record, while the album also features two instrumentals, “Stem” and “Lion in Winter, Pt. 1”. Overall, this is dark, dream-haze electronica at its best. I’d even compare this record to some of Radiohead’s more obscure albums, and that’s a huge compliment indeed.