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Dan Deacon “America”: Album Review

Domino (2012)

Inspired by his travels across America, Baltimore composer Dan Deacon’s equally celebratory and critical reflection on his homeland is a far cry from the playful wacky sound collages that saw him labelled as electronica’s biggest goofball.

Indeed, tackling everything from his distaste for consumer culture and anger at US foreign policy to his pride over the country’s rail system and the natural beauty of a local reservoir, America is very much a grown-up affair. There are even a couple of tracks that could almost be described as (shock horror!) conventionally-structured.

Take the anguished electro-punk of “Lots,” whose wall of distortion, frenetic galloping beats and choral backing vocals resemble a collision between Bloc Party and Sigur Ros. Also, Deacon’s vocals are for once actually intelligible (“we don’t own the world”) in amongst the angular indie riffs, pitch-shifted samples and glitchy beats of one of the more critical offerings, “True Thrush.”

However, Dan Deacon certainly hasn’t lost his experimental touch. The deranged techno of opener “Guilford Avenue Bridge” can vouch for that, as can “Crash Jam,” a warped slice of garage rock influenced by a pit-stop in the New Mexico desert, and the contemplative “Prettyboy,” a slow-building ambient number which eventually segues into an enchanting medieval instrumental.

But it’s on the hugely ambitious 21-minute four-part suite where Deacon’s neo-classical tendencies come to the forefront. A perfect accompaniment to the road trip at the heart of the record, the sprawling epic begins with the orchestral fanfare of “USA I: Is A Monster” and goes on to veer thrillingly into everything from My Bloody Valentine-esque shoegaze (“USA II: The Great American Desert”), to minimalist chamber music (“USA III: Rail”) to atmospheric widescreen indie-pop (“USA IV: Manifest”).

A highly distinctive and refreshingly honest love letter to the land of the free, America may be slightly more polished and mature than Dan Deacon’s previous DIY fare, but it’s still the most vibrant and captivating album of his career.

4 / 5 stars     

About the Author


Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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