Dan Deacon’s America: Never lingers, always racing

Richard DiCicco
Staff Writer

 

Awe·some

[aw-suh m]

 

– adjective

1. inspiring awe: an awesome sight.

2. showing or characterized by awe.

3. Slang.  very impressive: That new Dan Deacon album is totally awesome.

 

I am in awe of this record. Composer Dan Deacon’s newest release is a sprawling electronic tapestry that unfolds in nine carefully paced segments. The pontifically-titled “America” oscillates between bombastic songs reminiscent of Arcade Fire’s most anthemic moments and tracks that remind me of the brand of noisy adrenaline-soaked punk I typically associate with No Age.

As a result, this wide dynamism affords the record a curiously narrow stylistic core, as if Deacon was trying to reconcile the flux of natural and artificial landscapes that shape the record’s eponymous subject and somehow got stuck in the middle. On this album, the sound of “America” exists somewhere between an electrical buzz and a gust of wind, but he makes it work.

Sonically, Dan Deacon builds a landscape alight with color and life but devoid of the kind of wild idiosyncrasies I would expect from an album called “America.” Where are the deserts, the mountains, the lakes? I see these in the track titles but I don’t hear them in the compositions. Each song moves with the pace of a locomotive; they never linger, they always race by.

Set aside the record’s questionable execution, though, and you have a spectacular set of electronic songs. These tracks all have a very human quality to them — at times enthusiastic, at others reverent. There is a lot of variety here, and its immediacy and smart editing works to its benefit (most tracks wisely hover around the five-minute mark).

Its wide screen drama may not be able to fully capture a subject as broad as America conceptually, but who ever said a concept record had to strictly follow its concept to be good?

Listening to “America” straight through is a lot like flying from coast-to-coast: you move far too fast to truly appreciate the sheer majesty of the continental landscape, but you are thrilled by the journey nonetheless

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