[sic] Magazine

Department of Eagles – In Ear Park

4.A.D. Records
Reviewed by: Jamie Milton

Seems we’ve been turning a blind eye. Grizzly Bear’s Daniel Rossen has been flaunting the likes of ‘Two Weeks’ and ‘While We Wait For The Others’ on Letterman shows and Radiohead-graced stages for the last year and we’ve been caught into some kind of trance, obsessing over what’s coming next and when we can expect the next Grizzly Bear record. In truth if Rossen’s formerly-original-now-side-project gave this record to his main commitment, most of us would be entirely satisfied if not overwhelmed by ‘In Ear Park’. A sticker and a credits page playing host to the two magic words, and the blogosphere would be off into an unstoppable frenzy. Department of Eagles may be happy to stay in the background, preferably with some masks on, but they deserve to show their faces for some rapturous applause.

Rossen though, has perhaps provided a conundrum for both himself and ourselves to judge. Frankly, ‘In Ear Park’ could pass as a Grizzly Bear record and hardly anyone would notice. The opening chimes of the title-track suggest a second attempt at ‘Yellow House’, guitar melodies clashing heads and a gentle smooth atmosphere keeping all things friendly. Standards aren’t slipping either. If GB unveiled to us that this was simply a b-side collection, we’d refuse to believe them. Because once the title-track kicks in, we have something special on our hands, something with equally as many ideas and ambition as Rossen’s familiar guise.

There’s a sense of symmetry to the record. By the end of the whole affair, we’re still not quite over the hectic, acoustic-led chants that were offered to us on the opening track. Thing is, in the form of ‘Balmy Night’, we have an entirely similar issue to get over. Rossen and Nicolaus up the pace, soothe us with a delightful wall of noise that gradually, very gradually creeps into proceedings – all whilst we’re transfixed by the plucked harmonies from the guitars. The opening and closing tracks draw similarities to one another, purposeful or not. One raises our expectations; the other satisfies them and draws them to a close. Only we want to hear the whole thing all over again. Instantly.

Sound progresses from these gentle, acoustic-led pleasures very quickly too. A 50’s inspired, captivating bass hum is the centrepiece (even though it probably shouldn’t be) in the glorious ‘No One Does It Like You’. Dominance is also ensured from the looped hand-claps and the stunning lead guitar, seemingly coming unstuck due to the overwhelming, triumphant shouts from several inspired voices. Beautiful. Pace is the trick, ‘Phantom Other’ and ‘Classical Records’ both offer us something different to enjoy via the bigger, yet more laid-back sonics, they seem to be carefully placed across the album. The overall highlight however is ‘Teenagers’, a twisted, Lennon-esque lead vocal is eclipsed by some tuneless piano melody, which is then eclipsed itself by a messy guitar line. The whole thing sounds like a disaster but it’s magnificently pulled off, most probably thanks to the occasional entrance of some out-of-control horns – pretty magical if you ask me.

‘Teenagers’ certainly gives us the feeling that Rossen and Nicolaus have come here to experiment. But not only that – they’re varied ideas and instruments into approachable, likable pieces that sound perfect when linking arms with other pieces. Expect ‘In Ear Park’ to remain an understated gem, but a gem at that.