Review- Department of Eagles: In Ear Park
The genre “indie” is one so broad that it’s a bit meaningless. Nevertheless it’s necessary, at least as an introduction, to categorize the band Department of Eagles as “indie.” Though, the adjectives folk, experimental and McCartney Beatles-esque (the latter needs elaboration and song specification but is true, I feel) will give you an idea, maybe a vague one, of what their new album “In Ear Park” sounds like. “In Ear Park,” released earlier this month, has a sound that is autumnal, organic and intricate— with layers of reverb drenched acoustic and electric guitars and perpetual piano riffs frequenting many tracks. And it is, more often than not, slightly eerie in a very non-creepy, accessibly experimental, aesthetical way.
The general ambience and structure fluctuates from complex to simple in each song or parts of a song. Vocal harmonies and guitar riffs leading unknown sounds resembling a thick flute, among other things, in “Around the Bay,” create dissonance that is very calm despite the moderately upbeat tempo. But the track is very much multi-melodic in a way that keeps pushing the song forward. Finding itself throughout the five-minute tune is a bridge with a powerful bass line and humming melody that goes lower, and lower, with a Sergeant Pepper weirdness that is random but fitting. The lyrics reflect the relative ambiguity and lack of dominance in the instrumentation: “All my thoughts left me again/Bliss me out, send me away/I’ll wait around for another soul/Watch those birds out in the bay/ Making their rounds like I knew they would.”
The title track “In Ear Park,” and several songs on the album, is an ode to the recently deceased father of singer, guitarist and instrumentalist Daniel Rossen. This song is a good representative of the entire album, though each one is distinctive. It sets the precedent for elaborate weaving melodies— falling and rising in intensity as necessitated by the song’s flow—that are lead by composed, confident vocals often harmonized with thin walls of humming in the background.
The Brooklyn-based Department of Eagles is apparently comprised of a former or current member of Grizzly Bear, another NYC indie band, though one I’m not familiar with. So I won’t make any comparisons.
The intro of “Floating on the Lehigh” (maybe they went rafting with Quest?) is definitely reminiscent of Fleet Foxes, with band members “ooohing” melodies to a not quite western sounding plucking acoustic riff. But the songs quickly drops out to a relatively simple verse before evolving into a bass driven chorus with what can sound like a hint of trumpet or horns thrown in.
“No One Does It Like You” seems like the most “poppy” of their songs and indeed their most popular, I guess, if Myspace plays are any indication. But it’s “poppy” in a very anti-MTV- VH1- Mainstream way—it has elements that could have easily ended up on Rubber Soul or Revolver, and vice versa.
Rossen’s steady, eventually climatic banjo playing and wavering voice closes the album with “Balmy Night,” another song with references to his father. The lyrics suggest, I think, acceptance and continuity: “Bright yellow light/This balmy night’s too long/My broken record/It’s always on.”