Dan Deacon – America (Domino Records/ August 27 2012)
By Jonathan Tranter
You may remember Dan Deacon from the hilarious viral video ‘Drinking out of Cups’, a stream of thought monologue set to mute TV and animated by Liam Lynch, which viewers misinterpreted as an acid trip.
But Deacon’s creativity doesn’t stop at the video. He has put out an impressive amount of music over the last ten years, from movie soundtracks and operas to his own albums. Out on Domino Records, the boldly titled America marks his third full-length release.
With the rise of the bedroom producer in the 21st century, there’s been an avalanche of recordings from amateur electronic music makers, meaning those who actually have something original to say are drowned in the masses. It’s difficult to find your own unique and recognizable style when you’re not working with vocals, but Deacon’s gargantuan and moving soundscapes power through. Only on ‘Prettyboy’ does Deacon lower himself to the level of ‘experimental electronica’ for a track that is pretty but forgettable.
This is an album of live, punchy drums, catchy playful pop hooks, insanely distorted synths and colorful, psychedelic effects. Add to that a number of different instruments from trombone to banjo. Think MGMT meets Japandroids, with Steve Reich or Brian Eno at the controls. But many parts of this album are just incomparable, which is what makes it such an exciting listen.
A fond supporter of mass movements like Occupy Wall Street, Deacon loves to bring people together at his shows through various experiments and games. Putting emphasis on the collective rather than the individual, his music is a tidal wave of sounds crashing onto you. Listening to the four piece closer – ‘USA’ I, II, III and IV – with your eyes shut is highly recommended.
With a title like America it would be easy to think of this as a concept album, but with so few vocals and incomprehensible lyrics, it works more as a soundtrack. The cover depicts a sprawling landscape of beautiful red hills nestled around a clear blue lake. Listening to this album can feel like you are exploring that space. Deacon’s love of cross country travel is clear here. You may not quite understand what he’s trying to say, but it doesn’t matter, just enjoy the ride.
The album can be dissected into two pieces, the first comprising of ‘pop songs’ while the second is a piece called ‘USA’, broken up into four parts. Thematically, Deacon seems to take a dark and angry approach while occasionally breathing in and admiring the grandeur and beauty around him.
Compared to his former albums, America is Deacon’s most mature album. The robot voices and pop hooks are still here, but this is more heavy, serious and orchestral. Deacon has created a wall of sound that is aggressive and, ultimately, thrilling. Be sure to catch the quirky producer for the UK leg of his tour in September.