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In Ear Park

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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.

Customer Reviews

If you like pet sounds....

I'd never heard of this band until seeing them perform in the Borderline club near Soho, London last week. After a great stripped down show of acoustic material and amazing harmonies I rushed to buy this. Fantastic! The songs are extremely well crafted with lots of layers and bags of atmosphere. Reminds me of Brian Wilsons writing in his prime (especially No One Does It Like You). The mood of the record wavers between dark and light with just the right balance making this my album of the year.

Highly recommended

I too was at the Borderline gig. I'd been waiting patiently for a follow up to the first album which contains some of the most beautiful and original moments of musical invention I've ever heard. Sprawling and inconsistent as it is I think the first album is well worth having. This one, on the other hand, is essential. The band have turned into something more mature without losing their freedom to experiment. The stripped down live experience with just Daniel and Fred was breathtaking, with Grizzly Bear filling out the sound on record it makes something worth hearing again and again.

Highly inventive with moments of magic

Fantastic sounding album, intimate and personal with a layered and intricate sound. In Ear Park has warmth and invention across the entire album. Songs to check out are Around the Bay, Floating on the Bay and the title track. These tracks are incredibly dynamic and beautifully produced, if you like Grizzly Bear, the Dirty Projectors, Andrew Bird (his music not his lyrics), and all those animal named bands you'll like this. In places it does sound, consciously or unconsciously, like the Beach Boys (pet sounds) and the Beatles (post acid), Well worth a purchase.


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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Customer Ratings