[CD Review] Department of Eagles, 'In Ear Park' (4AD)

Before you go calling Department of Eagles a Grizzly Bear spin-off—the bands share three of four members—keep in mind that Fred Nicolaus and Daniel Rossen’s dorm-room collaborations and 2003 debut, The Cold Nose, preceded Rossen joining Grizzly Bear by several years. With that said, In Ear Park’s title track feels instantly familiar, what with its cosmic shimmer, whispery background choir and pedal-treated quivering of instrumentation. It’s more swaggering and less submerged than Grizzly Bear often is, though, and the following “No One Does It Like You” is a crackling slice of psychedelic doo-wop.

Grizzly Bear player/producer Chris Taylor assists in the album’s many Eno-isms, ensuring that each bizarre sound feels organically hatched and perfectly placed. Nicolaus lends his wavering lead vocals on the already surreal “Teenagers,” slippery twang sneaks into “Around the Bay,” and “Herring Bone” brings angelic atmosphere to a song as slow yet indelible as Grizzly Bear’s brilliant “Knife.” “Classical Records” is funny and more than a little sad—“Do you listen to your classical records anymore? Or do you let them sleep in their sleeves where they weep?”—and nods to the unforgiving drift of time.

That’s echoed elsewhere, too; Rossen dedicated the album to his father, who passed away last year. But In Ear Park is too gorgeous and adventurous to make us hang our heads for long. Around every corner lurks some glowing sonic detail or sublime turn of phrase that doles out goose bumps just the way Grizzly Bear does. It may not be the same band—Ed Droste, absent here, named and founded Grizzly Bear—but Department of Eagles prove to be a rewarding complement and impressive equal.

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