Department of Eagles
Oct 20, 2008 - Daytrotter Studio, Rock Island, IL
- 1 1997
- 2 Phantom Other
- 3 Herring Bone
- 4 Balmy Night
- 5 What is Your Deal?
Smokings And Dead Leaves And Warm Hands
Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
If one emotion wasn't powered by another, but stand-alone and thorough, gripping and back-breaking in its one-armed push up power then there would be another name for Department of Eagles. It would - this emotion or any of the emotions that could fit the criteria of self-motorization — have the strength to lift bodies and the equal strength to cause them to tumble into messes. The side work of Grizzly Bear's Daniel Rossen and his New York University college roommate Fred Nicolaus is spilling with well-worn feelings of carefully preserved mementos and axes needing grinding and sore spots needing massaging and reconciliation. It's a folklore-ish feeling with the steam of dry ice and mothballs billowing off in a spectacularly enhancing way.
It's as if these emotions are never going anywhere. They've not dissipated over time and there's nothing to suggest that anything that's spoken of within the context of the band's latest album, In Ear Park, is finally going to be a monkey that will be off any back, that the nagging pestering of the deepest, most prominent voices will ever subside back down the well or up to the attic with the rest of the dusty, forgotten about photographs of wilting colors. The songs that Rossen and Nicolaus make are supple bedroom-ish numbers that are etched out of these nostalgic shades of yellows, tans, light reds and rusted creams that are prevalent when the horizon fights over the completion of the day. They stand for phantoms that are more familiar than not, for glistening recollections of situations and actions that have since become relatively inactive and inert.
There is little that is threatening physically in a Department of Eagles song, but the true horror is in considering what the events that led to the retention and burning, searing of the memory or the "thing" must have been like in force of nature when they were fresh and roaming the grounds. It all seems to cut deep on its way to being cast in this bathwater and bubbles/banjo/piano/reverb-drenched presentation that pours out of these two guys with such loving care. All of the guns have been whittled down into whistles and walking sticks - the smokings from the barrels have long since been taken into outer space - and the knives that were stabbed into backs, the daggers that were shot from eyes have been replaced with warm, wobbly hands. It's as if a lost moth has fluttered into the room, piloting toward the brightest thing it senses, not just for the light, but for the heat that it's generating.
Rossen and Nicolaus have exquisitely created another album's worth of songs that capture the din of the day, when the joints are weakened and pounded out and you need toothpicks to keep your eyes open, but then you throw some logs into the fireplace and kindle your way into a hearty fire that helps the bottle of wine go leisurely down as the pages of a thick book are thumbed from right-to-left and the mmmofffing of lips on a quiet cigarette echo up to the cool ceiling rafters, the dying of the light and the unsavory memories that were in them rising into the ether. In Ear Park feels as if it's already an heirloom that's been passed down over the generations, a piece of delightfully weary confessions and spindly tales of recognizing the sorrow that fills so many of the particles that we love to wade into and drown ourselves in.
It's the contents of this album that are like uncovered bits of dialogue between a soul past and a soul present, complimenting the he from the past on its sophistication and its retrospective pluck. The record is similar to that old and scruffy pocket watch that was pressed into the palm of a young boy, by an old man and repeated through the years so that it always moved along with the family name through the course of time, each step gaining more importance, more fingerprints from touches. Finally, at that point, it does more than tell time.
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