Dan Deacon – America

Prior to Dan Deacon’s rise to notoriety, it would have been impossible to find Francis Ford Coppola, Carnegie Hall and Carly Rae Jespen housed under one article. However, thanks to Deacon’s strangeness versatility genius, he has spent the past few years making a name for himself as both a composer and parodist. After the success of 2009’s Bromst, the Baltimore-bred artist took time to compose the soundtrack to Coppola’s 2011 horror thriller Twixt. Leaving his comfort zone of electronica, the score breached new horizons with symphonic chamber music. With this new experience under his belt, Deacon began working on new material and touring relentlessly.

Thus enters America, a record encompassing Deacon’s personal love/hate relationship with the nation he calls home. According to his official site, America is the byproduct of a European tour turned identity awakening. Including both his fascinations and frustrations, the record traverses the American countryside, spanning everywhere from the southwestern deserts to his New England homeland. As a statement, it is a stark departure from prior Deacon works, but as a record, it is right on par with his constantly evolving sound.

With previous releases such as Twacky Cats and Spiderman of the Rings, Deacon’s goals were solely fixed on creating spastically artful music. There were no overarching themes or motives behind the tracks. With America, these same goals are in place, but there is the added cohesion of telling the nation’s story through electronic blitzkrieg. Whether via catchy singles sprinkled throughout or the symphonic conclusion, the themes remain relevant and in the forefront.

It is easier to view America as a six-track EP instead of the nine-track LP it claims to be. Consisting of five pop tracks and a four-part electronic symphony, America’s duality is quickly recognized at the turn of the record. The first five songs act as a concise and matured Bromst. Without the filler tracks such as the prior record’s “Wet Wings” and “Kalimidiba,” America wastes no time with experimentation and produces a strangely digestible handful of songs. It is at times hard to imagine this is the same man who brought us “Lion with a Shark’s Head” and “Moses Vs. Predator,” but Deacon is a new man, and America is the proof.

At times it is easy to overlook parts of the first half, but don’t let this prevent you from digging into each and every track. While we’re already familiar with “True Thrush” and “Lots,” there is much more than the singles suggest. “Guilford Avenue Bridge,” named after the Baltimore bridge of similar namesake, opens the album with massive distortion against Deacon’s trademark dual-drummers. This is followed by the easygoing “Prettyboy” and “Crash Jam,” cleansing our palates just enough for what is about to unfold.

Opening with a flood horns and woodwinds, the first movement of USA begins with an organic flair rarely found in Deacon’s electronic catalogue. The melody soars over a staccato string section while slowly dying away into a mere whisper. It is at this point you’re starting to wonder. Has Dan Deacon taken a new perspective on music and is moving into his own attempt at contemporary classical? Is he going to shed his on-the-floor live shows for symphony centers and ritzy premieres?

Before you get a chance to ask any more stupid questions, the piece explodes into a gritty, percussive pump-up jam full of high octave vocal choirs and Deacon’s own lyricism. Weaving in and out of this electro-jumble is the reoccurring theme of strings, residing quietly to avoid center stage, yet loud enough to grab attention.

The work proceeds into “The Great American Desert,” a section that sounds as if the listener is riding across the Mojave on mechanical horseback. “Rail” serves more so as a breather than a third movement, although it works as both. While most concertos – and yes, this is a concerto – don’t have room for breaks, Deacon is also not like most composers, allowing him to break any conventions necessary.

Revisiting the foundation of “Is a Monster,” “Manifest” sprinkles the theme throughout the piece, reminding the listener of all that has occurred in the brief twenty minutes prior. After the last notes ring, it is challenging to remember the tracks prior to USA. While the record as a whole does not fail to please, the symphonic second half unfortunately overshadows the prior. This Wham City member has officially grown up, and that is something we as a fan base must accept.

Top tracks include “Guilford Avenue Bridge,” “True Thrush” and “USA I – Is a Monster.”


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