Album Review: Department of Eagles’ “In Ear Park”

In 2008, Department of Eagles released their second album, “In Ear Park.” Since finding this album about four years ago, I have been continuously blown away by its ingenuity. Daniel Rossen, one half of the Department of Eagles duo, is best known for his work with the band Grizzly Bear. “In Ear Park,” however, is my favorite product of Rossen’s work. The craftsmanship and delicacy of the album is entrancing.

This entrancement begins almost immediately as the title track opens with beautiful guitar. Low strings subtly join the guitar in an extraordinarily complementary way. Similar string parts provide an unconventional texture throughout the album. The interjection of a marching rhythm signals the climax of this first track. Similarly, the peak of many of the songs does not occur from the band playing as loudly as possible but instead through the steady swell provided by the addition of instruments. This effect messes with one’s emotions.

The album contains extraordinary background vocals with complex and odd harmonies. It also utilizes low pitch in a way that is pleasantly refreshing. Simple piano parts are pounded in the lowest range of the keyboard, and steady bass lines are often doubled with baritone singing. Each instrument is carefully intertwined with the other. This, to me, is the epitome of great songwriting. Also, the chord progressions on several tracks are similar to one another. I cannot, however, complain about this fact because the progression is so particular and beautiful that it bears repeating.

Tracks such as “Classical Records” and “Therapy Car Noise” are ethereally haunting. The former contains a high-pitched tone that persists through most of the song, while the latter features reversed speaking reminiscent of a Beatles song. The musicianship on the album displays extreme attention to detail; the layering of instruments and electronics is impeccably tasteful.

The last track features banjo, and it is probably my least favorite on the album. It ends a collectively phenomenal album on a slight lull. The second-to-last song, “Floating on the Lehigh,” has an exceptionally beautiful melody, and in my opinion, it would have been a better closer for the album.

The climaxes of the songs on “In Ear Park” are ultimately wholesome. Department of Eagles has a way of immediately bringing this sonic peak down to absolutely nothing. All of this happens before one can even comprehend the sounds that they previously heard. This album has left a long-standing impression on me, and it continues to do so. “In Ear Park” is a truly special and emotional album that never ceases to amaze me.

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