Department of Eagles

    {grate 3/4}

    Before Grizzly Bear broke out their Animal Collective-at-half-speed pop, another project existed named Department of Eagles, composed of GB singer/guitarist Daniel Rossen and his buddy Fred Nicolaus. Their resulting In Ear Park is a pained confessional nearly four years in the making, more hook-oriented than GB and just as warm-blanket attractive. Instead of lingering on a twangy breakdown for a few minutes before returning to the safety of a verse, Department of Eagles embrace the pleasures of pop structure, then fill it with old-timey fingerpicking and polish it with subtle tech sheen. What may at first sound like your grandaddy’s folk music is merely a hybrid designed with classical beauty in mind, sometimes taking new strides into the organic territory Radiohead explored last year with In Rainbows.

    Opener “In Ear Park” enters slowly, but when the drums and backing vox find their way inside the room, the dynamics shift from front-porch plucking to the expanse of an ecstatic concert hall. More immediate are the bent chords and animal bass of straight-up nodder “No One Does It Like You,” whose circus percussion would do well leading a full-blown hippie parade. Nicolaus takes vocal duties on piano ballad “Teenagers,” a late-Beatles homage with an assortment of wind and string instruments all properly treated with lo-fi varnish. The droll and trying “Classical Records,” however, pairs instantly forgettable melodies with ridiculous metaphors about bummed LPs sleeping in their sleeves — through which, fortunately, the gorgeous orchestration never falters.

    Department of Eagles prove to be catchier and more creatively focused than their much-blogged brethren before them. Indie music as most people know it has garnered its own worn genre trademarks over the years, and while the Dept. fit into many of these categories superficially, their nuanced and old-soul approach to familiar instruments saves them from the pigeonhole.

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