It's not often that I can off the top of my head name my top five albums of a year. For someone who listens to music as much as I (or even you) do that's a task, even a tasking task. Department of Eagles' album In Ear Park is one of those albums that has landed in my top five. Now you may be thinking "Aubrey, you interviewed DoE, aren't you sort of biased? Are you not a fan of this band already?" Come off it (yes I am biased, but I know crap when I hear it too. At least my ears do)! That's like me asking a fan of say, any band that has released a second, third or any number album what they think of the most recent album. Yes, there will be a degree of bias. And also yes there will be a degree of expectation. I've been vulturing this band for something like five years, seeing if they would release something new. Every year DISAPPOINTED until recently.
In all honesty the wait was well worth it. As stated by DoE member Fred in the interview I conducted with him earlier this month, this is a much more "mature" album than 2003's Whitey on the Moon UK EP. This album is minimal on sampling and heavy on guitar, banjo, drums, vox, piano and the like (generalized as instrumentation). In Ear Park is home to a variety of sounds, including my all time favorite twinkling/magic guitar featured on the single "No One Does it Like You" (you can't help but walk-dance about in cadence to the beat on this one). This album is luscious, seriously. The track "Teenagers" is remeniscent of some 1930s talkie soundtrack. "Waves of Rye" may very well be one of my favorite songs of all time. Sure it starts off with a Randy Newman-esque keyboard riff but it rolls into something much less Disney. There is no other voice like Dan Rossen's. Period. Paired with the guitars and drums, "Waves of Rye" brisks you away to the verse. "Heaven is a ballroom with high ceilings! Filled with white baloons and smoke machines." If that is what heaven's like, well I wouldn't mind hanging out up there. This is followed by the ethereal "Therapy Car Noise" (song title which I think is brilliant, being a sleeper to ambient sound). The penultimate song of the album, "Floating on the Lehigh", has a longing to it, there is no sound I love more than the sound of fingers running up and down an acoustic guitar. Oh wait, yes there is...hollow bodied electric guitar (I love them equally, like fraternal twins). I honestly wish the album would end with this particular song but it goes on to "Balmy Night" which has on and off lingered on the band's MySpace page. If you enjoy banjos and or finger plucking then this is your jam. In Ear Park is definitely miles away from what DoE was circa 2003, but this is a welcome distance. Department of Eagles has come a long way since the dorm room which they were begotten at NYU. In Ear Park is an album you shouldn't pass up, I know I certainly wouldn't want to be the last of my friends to find out about it.