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Albums Reviews

Department of Eagles

In Ear Park
[Four stars]

Rolling Stone IN Dec 10, 2008

Without reserve, In Ear Park (Grizzly Bear’s Daniel Rossen’s other band, with Fred Nicolaus) is one of the more brilliant works of the year. It’s a smart indie record that builds on Grizzly Bear’s slightly indulgent sound with tighter, more accessible and more personal songwriting (dealing broadly with nostalgia following Rossen’s father’s death in 2007). It is easy and full of immediately likeable moments, bold in its well-informed referencing of a variety of folk, rock & roll and psychedelic themes, yet ever so slightly murky and intriguing without plodding its way along. That one is in for a delicious smorgasbord of treats is evident from the moment Rossen’s guileless voice (equal parts Cat Stevens, Jeff Tweedy and McCartney) comes up on the title track, a lush waltz pulsating with swells of bowed-double bass, classical picking and seconds. It is a window to the sentiment of some lost era, perhaps of grainy silent films, but despite folding-in various retro elements, the warm sound is refreshingly contemporary. Beatles-like treatments get pride of place all over IEP (‘No One Does It Like You,’ ‘Teenagers,’) as do barbershop harmonies (‘Herring Bone,’ ‘Waves of Rye’) and quirky instrumental collages (‘Around the Bay,’ ‘Classical Records’). Rossen’s hollow timbre and memorable melodic approach (often veering into showtune territory) is supported in its driving role by the discerning use of electronic effects, the sporadic primal thump of simple and effective drum work and many folksie acoustic instruments peppered with the occasional surprise of the chunky electric hook (all of these are packed-in unforgettably on ‘Phantom Other’). The rich output of two very fertile imaginations, this record is ripe for exploration over the coming winter.

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