Dan Deacon - America - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Dan Deacon - America

by Daryl Worthington Rating:10 Release Date:2012-08-27

When I first read that the new Dan Deacon album was entitled America, it seemed a fairly innocuous name, but when listening to the record, its title seems so much more significant. Firstly, of course, there's the decision to call the album America, and not, for example, USA. There seems to be an attempt to latch onto an idea rather than a specific country. 'America' encompasses a broader, more diverse array of people and places, and seems so much more suggestive. Thankfully, Dan Deacon's album is an epic collision of a range of musical ideas, from political pop-punk to electronic noise, dance music and modern orchestral arrangement, justifying its name.

Throughout America, Deacon subtly mixes acoustic and electronic textures to dazzling effect. Lead single 'True Thrush' captures this at its most immediate and engaging. Starting with a looped sample of what sounds like acoustic guitar and synth, distorted bass, drums, vocals and handclaps kick in. There are abrupt changes of beat, and an abundance of keyboard noises and samples are thrown in.

The backing vocals are initially made up of vocoder and wild manipulations of Deacons voice. Eventually, a choir joins in, creating a fusion of the artificial and the human. For a song under five minutes long, Deacon manages to throw in a huge variety of ideas. However, at no point do they cause it to feel cluttered. This song is at its core a brilliant pop song, and however many crazy ideas Deacon throws at the arrangement, they never distract from this.

The following track, 'Lots' continues this contrast. Built around heavily distorted, shouted vocals and dirty synths, it is very much reflective of the high-energy, DIY shows with which Deacon made his name. However along with the glitchy samples are a relentless beat and, again, a choir providing backing vocals. Lyrically, this song, as with much of the album, seems to be quite bleak: "Skylines burnt down, no crops, dust cloud". Yet in the context of the arrangements these lyrics have the opposite effect. The unending euphoric momentum of the songs means these are words for action, not for morose contemplation.

Over the last few years, Deacon has written pieces to be played by classical ensembles. This, combined with the decision to work with other musicians in the creation of America, has led to this becoming Deacon's sonically most diverse album so far. The last four tracks are all entitled 'USA', and numbered one to four (with individual subtitles). This gives the impression of a classical movement, the tracks forming a collective whole. The crowning achievement is that they never seem indulgent. They flitter between epic orchestrations, industrial-style noise-outs and driving rhythms without ever losing momentum, all the while maintaining Deacon's unique stamp.

Although musically very different, Dan Deacon seems to be taking a similar trajectory to The Flaming Lips. Both are acts who begun in the experimental underground, defined by unique live shows, and crazy conceptual ideas (in Deacon's case, he released in 2008 a DVD called Ultimate Reality, which is him soundtracking psychedelic videos of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and for his current tour has released a smart phone app for audiences at his shows). Both acts have gradually refined their sound into a more concise, euphoric form of pop music without losing the eccentricity that keeps them unique, and one step ahead of those around them. Most importantly, Dan Deacon's live shows are defined by audience participation, and a feeling that everybody is crucial to their execution. Despite his ever broadening sound, this feeling of association is kept throughout.

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