Saturday, November 29, 2008

Department of Eagles - In Ear Park

Department of Eagles consist of singer/songwriter Daniel Rossen of the band Grizzly Bear, and Fred Nicolaus. The two met as roommates at NYU and formed the group around 2000-2001. They released an album in 2003, Whitey On The Moon UK, that was re-released in 2007 under the name The Cold Nose. I've yet to hear the album, but from what I've read the songs were written when they were really young so naturally it's a complete different sound than their current record. I'm still interested though.

Given the recent success of Grizzly Bear and how much Rossen plays a part in that band, it was interesting to learn that he was going to release another side project album with his old friend. Especially at a time when Grizzly Bear are in the midst of recording a new album. In an interview with Artist Direct, Rossen talks about how the difference between the songs on In Ear Park and Grizzly Bear is that they are far more personal. Indeed, the record is dedicated to his father who passed away last year.

Now I'm a fan of Grizzly Bear. I really like their style and the new stuff is sounding fantastic. However, I think this Department of Eagles record is better than any of Grizzly Bear's albums. The sounds are very similar: weird chord structures, hauntingly beautiful melodies. The difference though lies in the focused, consistency of In Ear Park.

The title-track opener projects the overall mood of the album: a son trying to recollect the memories of his father and to never forget him. Most of the instrumentation is very stripped down, intimate, and alludes itself to a gorgeous sounding authenticity. Folky acoustic guitar, chilling piano, deep bassey percussive sounds all play a huge role in the album, yet the excitement comes from the very subtle detail of added instrumentation throughout each song. "Around the Bay" slowly blooms with background bass vocals, light key melodies, and stomping percussion. It's like a pleasant dream gone bad and you can't figure out where to run to or how to wake up.

While most songs are the type that grow, there are exceptions which provide a delicate balance to the album's dark side. A vintage-sounding bassline grooves along with lush string arrangements on album standout, "No One Does It Like You" creating some sweet pop goodness. Songs written by Nicolaus also carry a much more pop feel. On "Teenagers", piano delicately treads alongside his soothing voice as a swirl of mystical strings lie in the background. It has the feeling of a really good Christmas song.

Main Point: Department of Eagles - In Ear Park is shaping up to be one of the best records to come out this year. It may take some time to really get into it as the songs don't latch out, they mostly start simple and slowly grow into rich, layered compositions. The beauty is in the detail so give it the attention it deserves and preferably listen to it on good headphones/speakers.

Bonus: Live Alt-Version "No One Does It Like You" The chorus is sublime.

[Buy In Ear Park]

[DOE Homepage]

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