By Rachel Craig
Dan Deacon’s newest release – “America” – may be the most aptly named album of 2012. Deacon draws inspiration from cross-country road trips and the current state of America and crafts an album that seems to perfectly exemplify his feelings towards the good ol’ USA. Using his classical background fused with a gritty electronic sound, he makes an expansive and raw collection of songs that seem to resonate further than the pretentious indie music scene. In comparison with fellow Baltimore-based musicians Animal Collective, Deacon is able to make the experimental genre more refined and reachable instead of simply producing a drug-induced pile of sound. Artists who have carved out the genre of freak-folk and neo-psychedelic stay easily classified as “weirdos” but Deacon is able to make something truly beautiful and vital. He even manages to challenges musicians like Sufjan Stevens who previously ruled the sound Deacon seems to have perfected.
The first five songs read differently than his more technically compositional four-part ending, however this is not a bifurcated album. Tying together Deacon’s admiration for the beauty of the land and his discontent of what resides on it, the album kicks off with the second track, “True Thrush.” The track booms and rattles , but Deacon’s voice cuts through in a sing-song tone throughout, starting off the first lines of the album: “Beast on my brain/every thought is the same/if the beast is controlled/it’ll never turn gold/and that’s just fine.” “Lots” serves as a call to arms, where his deeply distorted lyrics are delivered over a mix between early 90’s basement grudge and electronic sludge, “One choice to make/Get ready to go.”
But perhaps the most impressive part of this album is Deacon’s ability to send his message without lyrics. “Prettyboy” is a standout among the album for its excellence in displaying his compositional skill and knack for fusing sounds. His four part finale to the album, a nod to a classical composition’s movements, are a mastery of his ability to handle his mismatched sound with grace and beauty. Opening with “USA I: Is A Monster,” the song starts out with an ethereal orchestral composition and then hitting hard with his carefully manufactured static noise. Lyrics are delivered in a distorted and guttural chant layered over angelic strings and horns and finally tied together with his signature mechanically sterilized sound. The actual music is able to capture the essence of a beautiful land but also includes lyrics that scold the American culture which destroys it. The whole “USA” section of the album reads as a primordial soup of music history and future. The rest of his finale finishes off in much of the same way, ending with “USA VI: Manifest,” recalling lyrics and sounds from USA I and adding heavy percussion and adding an epic end to an album that is able to one-up itself which every listen.
While a cross-country album is nothing new, Dan Deacon is able to make something more impressive than what it technically is. He seems to be more present than Black Moth Super Rainbow, more well thought out than Grizzly Bear, and more sincere than Bon Iver. He takes everything that indie loves and runs with it, and is ultimately able to create something better than the sum of its parts. “America” is able to defy expectations, but also able to shatter a stereotype of the hipster/underground scene, deserving the praise Pitchfork and the Starbucks barista gives it. And beyond that, the album accomplishes a message and warning in the most beautiful way possible, one that changes rather than infuriates listeners.
Rachel Craig is simultaneously majoring in law and coming to terms with the fact that she never wants to be anywhere near a courtroom. She has red hair and is 5’7”. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.