August 23, 2012

Album Review: Dan Deacon's America


Unconventional doesn't even begin to describe Dan Deacon's approach to making music. An orthodox blend of pop deconstructed into bit-sized samples and later re-engineering into a sonic experience unrestrained by boundaries -- yet too calculated to be called stream of conscious -- has been the patented modus operandi for the Baltimore musician and composer since his self-released DIY days. In 2012, the percolating soundmaker is one of the more visible artists from the Mid-Atlantic and tri-state areas' breed of electronically-inclined musicians to successfully transcend his unique vision beyond basement shows and into a guaranteed draw at any major festival or even write the score for feature-length films. Deacon's plight to reinvent popular conventions on accessibility has also been focal point with each new release, and on his debut for indie roster powerhouse Domino Records, he attempts his grandest achievement to date with the boldly titled America.

Deacon has used music as a concept to tackle important issues culturally, politically and socially in the past, most recently on 2009's Bromst with rebukes against large corporations like Wal-Mart and Monsanto. America, in a simplistic sense, is his open-ended patriotic narrative. Says Deacon on his website, "the music was my love of cross-country travel, seeing the landscapes of the United States, going from east to west and back again over the course of seasons. The lyrics are inspired by my frustration, fear and anger towards the country and world I live in and am a part of." To show this, Deacon bridges each track wonderfully using three distinctive sonic strongholds, starting with an accessible collection of high intensity noise-pop. The trifecta of "Guilford Avenue Bridge," "True Rush" and "Lots" are fizzing and bounce around the soundboards like high-kinetic particles, but their words express feelings of helplessness and confusion ("Feel like we've been here before / Without a choice and insecure / Of where we'd be without the net around / Yet, we've always hated it" he laments in "Lots.")

Yet, as Deacon journeys across America, the music transports these emotions into a different circle defined by discovery and curiosity that ultimately makes its final destination in the four-part closing piece collectively known as "USA." It's airy, colorful and magical, kind of like finding yourself in the midst of Dan Deacon's warped orchestral take on a Disney World educational animatronic attraction, but altogether, leaving you with a invitation to stay optimistic, inspired and blissfully aware despite the complete bullshit we have to deal with on a day to day basis here in the land of the free, home of the brave. In a more obvious sense on this effort, the concept behind Deacon's work here is unavoidable and slightly demanding in complexity, but where as his previous material could easily focus your listening experience on fun and dancing without paying much attention to the content, America begs you to stop right where you are, contemplate your surroundings and wonder out loud.


Dan Deacon's America will be released August 28, 2012 on Domino Records.

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