Wednesday, August 29, 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: Dan Deacon - America

Since his 2007 breakthrough Spiderman of the Rings, Dan Deacon's star has been steadily on the rise, and while there're plenty of reasons to be excited about that, one of the biggest is just how unlikely it is. It takes a certain amount of luck and serendipity for anyone making challenging, original music to crossover and connect with a wider audience, but Deacon seems to pack enough complicated ideas (and just plain old weirdness) into his releases to scare off anyone whose tastes skew toward the conventional, and yet even those who have little use for a word like "minimalism" seem to latch enthusiastically onto his work.

And there's an easy explanation for that. As much as Deacon's music reflects his master's degree in electro-acoustic and computer composition, it's also exuberant, infectious and just plain old fun, and both sides of that dichotomy are in full effect on his latest, America. It's one of his most assured and confident efforts to date, finding an expressive and endlessly listenable middle ground between the freaked-out, Day-Glo madness of SOTR and its more serious, thoughtful 2009 follow up Bromst, effortlessly synthesizing those elements that make his music worthy of contemplation and those that make it apt for going nuts to.

Deacon conceived of the project, which, as the title suggests, examines the land of the free and the home of the brave, after an eye-opening trip abroad forced him to come to terms with the national identity he'd long distanced himself from. Whether those themes successfully come through the speakers in any concrete way is a matter for debate, one that hinges on your ability to follow the lyrics through layer upon layer of sound, but in a more abstract way, America encapsulates many of the qualities that define its namesake; which is to say that it's at once majestic and abrasive, straightforward and unwieldy, eccentric and wholly worth exploring.

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