Monday, 8 December 2008

Department Of Eagles - In Ear Park

Department Of Eagles - In Ear Park

Thanks again to James Dalrymple who brought Department Of Eagles to my attention. Not so much a side project as a sister act to Daniel Rossen's other band, Grizzly Bear, DOE tread a similar path of electronica influenced folk and with the inclusion on this album of Chris Taylor and Christopher Bear from Grizzly Bear the lines dividing the two projects become even more blurred. In Ear Park is much closer to a record made up of songs rather than the more experimental sounds on Yellow House, although don't let that fool you into thinking that this is easy listening. My poor attempt at a track by track guide will give you an idea of the varied sounds and textures. It begins with the title track, a song inspired by the death of Rossen's father, plucked guitars quickly develop in texture and there is a pastoral quality to the track as the vocals come in, 'All of us walk a long steady line/And now that you're gone/I have nothing but time/To walk with your bags/Down to the docks/And sit in the grass/Right in your spot/In Ear Park'. The introduction of a piano and harmonised backing vocals soon build it into something larger, almost filmic. It is a beautiful opening. 'No One Does It Like You' begins with Phil Spector like handclaps and percussion before what I can only describe as do-wop backing vocals, although I know that isn't really accurate. Electronically layered vocals are employed on 'Phantom Other' which builds to quite a crescendo, I didn't know you could do heavy banjo! A grand sounding piano is thumped throughout 'Teenagers' which with it's distorted vocals and slightly off kilter melody is one of the album's stand out tracks.

'Around The Bay' manages to sound like something from the soundtrack of a Hitchcock movie, but with Spanish infused handclaps and guitar. 'Herring Bone' has a quality remeniscent of Lennon and McCartney, dealing again with themes of loss. 'Classical Records' has the feeling of a nightmare about it and some extraordinary percussion and things don't get any easier with the bombastic 'Waves Of Rye'' and instrumental 'Therapy Car Noise'. Melody returns with the sweetly sung 'Floating On The Lehigh' which in tune with its content, meanders slightly like the course of a river. Rossens's father retuns on the banjo chorused 'Balmy Night', 'My father told me/Never to run/There's things coming after me/I'm all ready gone/Out through the door/Through my backyard', and so it finishes.

As I said earlier there is lots of variety in the instrumentation, familiar to anyone who has already heard Grizzly Bear, and whilst it holds together on the whole the second half of the record isn't quite as cohesive as the first four or five tracks. Lyrically it's a bit of a mixed bag too, a little opaque on the whole. Given the depth of its musicality however, each successive listen reveals something you didn't hear last time and for those already entranced by the harmonies of Fleet Foxes and the layered folk of Bon Iver this album would make a cosy bedfellow this winter.


Demob Happy 9 December 2008 at 08:11  

Hi William,
Funny I was just writing a post on this album but it looks like you beat me to it. Like 'Yellow House' it's something of a grower, really rewarding repeated listens. I very much agree with the Paul McCartney and Phil Spector references and be making similar comparisons in my review.
Have you heard any other good albums recently?

William Rycroft 9 December 2008 at 15:31  

I did wonder when you'd be posting up your thoughts James! As for other albums, I've been looking back at stuff from this year to see what I still enjoy (end of the year lists etc) but also recently listening to the High Places album and Koushik. Both nice to have on the headphones during journeys but not really inspiring me to write full reviews just yet.

How about you?

Demob Happy 9 December 2008 at 21:09  

Nothing to add really to the other albums we've discussed here. Quite like Fujiya and Miyagi - which is quite a silly mix of Can, Krautrock and electro. Need to give it a few more listens though. Dept of Eagles is definitely the album that's getting me through December. I'd be interested to hear what you had to say about High Places, should you post a review. I've liked the few tracks I've heard. I don't know Koushik - what's it like?

William Rycroft 9 December 2008 at 23:24  

Koushik Ghosh is a Canadian producer who's worked with Fourtet and Caribou. His album 'Out My Window' is a dreamy mix of soul, breakbeat and psychedelic vocals. Or as one reviewer has put it: 'imagine Avalanches hooking up with Spacemen 3, travelling back to 1964, recording for the next 10 years, then coming back to the future and getting DJ Shadow to remix it round Plaid's place.'


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