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In Ear Park

Department of Eagles

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Album Review

Department of Eagles' work from when they were still known as Whitey on the Moon UK was repackaged so much that when In Ear Park was released, it felt like the band had a much bigger discography than they actually did. The Whitey on the Moon UK LP (which became The Cold Nose after the band's name change) was based on the same core set of songs, give or take some bonus tracks, that Daniel Rossen and Fred Nicolaus recorded in college with their friends as their only intended audience. In Ear Park is Department of Eagles' first full-fledged, self-contained album, and it shows just how far the pair has come since their early days. Their playful, detailed approach to crafting sounds remains, but Rossen's stint in Grizzly Bear helped hone his songwriting skills, and life experiences enriched them: In Ear Park was inspired by his childhood, dedicated to his late father, and named after what he called one of his favorite places to go as a boy. The band frames these very personal observations in experimental, symphonic/acoustic/electronic pop, using its grandiosity to convey the power of memories. "In Ear Park"'s rippling guitars conjure up a far-off, sun-dappled yesterday, and the way its backing vocals and waltz rhythms swell capture the way a memory can completely immerse someone. Van Dyke Parks' widescreen sound is a major influence, especially on the excellent "Teenagers," which, with its elegantly woozy guitars, pianos, woodwinds, and '20s style megaphone vocals, feels nostalgic for a time much longer ago than when either Rossen or his father would have been teenagers. Similarly, Rossen's dreamy warble of a voice sounds older than his years, particularly on "Herringbone," where he sings "when you are gone, you are gone." The oddness of his vocals is a perfect fit for the dazzling amount of stuff going on in these songs — which, not surprisingly since Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor and Chris Bear play on it, recalls Rossen's work with his other band. "Phantom Other" builds from simple vocals and acoustic guitar to bubbling keyboards, massive guitars, and drums, while "Classical Records" incorporates footsteps, toy piano, and double bass into its darkly trippy swirl. In Ear Park's sonic flights of fancy are impressive in their own right, but even more so on the most tightly structured songs, such as the haunting standout "No One Does It Like You," a bouncy, wistful homage to '60s pop that's so yearning, it seems to be nostalgic for nostalgia. The album doesn't finish as strongly as it began — "Waves of Rye" and "Therapy Car Noise" feel formless compared to In Ear Park's first half — but this album is a big step forward for Department of Eagles, a playground of sound that celebrates the pull of memories and music.

Biography

Formed: 2001 in New York, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Originally known as the Whitey on the Moon UK, Department of Eagles blossomed from the recording project of two college roommates into purveyors of ambitious yet intimate music inspired by Van Dyke Parks and Paul McCartney. Fred Nicolaus and Daniel Rossen met in 2000, when they were assigned as each other's roommates during their freshman year at New York University. During their spring semester, they began experimenting with samples, recording software, and guitars, making music with the atmospheric...
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In Ear Park, Department of Eagles
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