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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Album Review: Dan Deacon’s ‘America’


    Lord, do I admire an album that starts with feedback. Synthesized feedback at that! The sheer amount of ideas in “Guilford Avenue Bridge,” the first track off the great Dan Deacon’s new record, is enough to keep me along for the ride, intimidating track names be damned.

    Yes, a quick glance at the back of the album (what, didn’t you buy it?) reveals the defiant four-part “USA Suite” from which the album quite rightfully has taken its name. But more on that later. The important thing to consider is that in a span of less than four minutes, “Guilford Avenue Bridge” screams electronic feedback at you, drops into it a beat heavier than Skrillex has managed in months, evaporates into a psychotic rendering of Emerson, Lake, & Palmer’s “Fanfare For the Common Man,” and finally throws it all together in the most delightfully confusing melting pot I’ve heard all day. Aside from being far more life-affirming than it sounds, how are we The Listener supposed to take all of this? Maybe it’s the “USA Suite” still starting me in the face, but I’m inclined to say it’s a meticulously crafted approximation of traveling and be done with it.

    Ultimately that’s about as insight that Deacon gives us as to the concept behind this record, but in a way that’s okay. While it may be tempting to cast upon the grandiosely titled America the same kind of importance and civic resonance that Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois and Michigan have earned, there’s hardly enough evidence to expect the kind of investigative celebration of Deacon that make those albums so poignant. And yet in the introverted and wandering lyrics of tracks like the cleverly-titled “Lots” there does exist a real emotional core to be examined, even if America perhaps lacks the accessibility or clarity of other geographically-inspired records. “Lots” is a classic Dan Deacon approach to songmaking, finding the singer shouting lyrics like “Head south headstrong / Wake each grey dawn” and “Feel like we’ve been here before” over hyperactive synthesizers. As evidenced by his previous several records, Deacon is a show-stopping blast when he’s discussing his vulnerability overtop giddy melodies, but even more arresting is his newfound penchant for classically-inspired songwriting. It can be pretty jarring to have such rich soundscapes as the Sufjan-esque “Prettyboy” and “Guilford Avenue Bridge” bookended by raucous stompers like “Lots” and “Crash Jam,” but it’s the juxtaposition of the styles that gets at the kind of restlessness and chaos Deacon seems to have picked up in his travels.

    Which, as promised, brings us home to the “USA Suite.” Frankly the four tracks, which seamlessly transition between each other and should be considered as a whole, are too full of details and sonic reference points to comprehensively describe in a record review. However, it can be said that after your first time listening to opener “Guilford Avenue Bridge” you will have a pretty good idea if you’re going to like “USA.” Effectively an exploration of America’s themes in synthesizers, parts like “USA II: The Great American Desert” take the buzzy goodness of “Guilford” and load it up with enough ethereal singing, American guilt, and My Bloody Valentine-approved white noise to yield a full listen or three.

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