In the past nine years Dan Deacon has released nine LPs, scored music for films and the stage, curated film festivals, been the figurehead of a Baltimore artist collective, and developed a reputation as one of the most energetic D.I.Y. live performers currently touring. When you hear Dan Deacon, you know it's Dan Deacon. It's hard to imagine where the unique musician could go from here. Last year, Deacon turned 30 and, with his new album America, moved toward a perspective of maturity and lofty concepts. The product of his artistic growth is not one that is radically different from his previous works, but rather is a honing of his quintessential sound with care. On America, Deacon creates his most mature work to date: an ode to his home country that is full of sonic beauty, destructive chaos and ecstatic fun.
America is more unified in its concept than any of Deacon's previous works. It's less based in party-minded absurdity and more aimed toward being sat with and thought about. In an interview with Pitchfork last month Dan Deacon explained, "I thought, 'I'll write these songs that are more mathematic and celebratory rather than pure adrenaline sugar.' And America is an extension of that idea. You can still rage to a lot of these songs, but there's a level of awareness, which is something I tried to expand." The fun is definitely still there, in peak condition for "Lots" and "Crash Jam," both of which bounce around like a bunch of hummingbirds splattering paint onto a canvas. But Deacon is also aimed at a more conceptual record, especially on the B-side, a 22-minute four-part composition titled USA I-IV. The four unified tracks work together as a celebration of America's natural beauty, and leave a lot up to your own interpretation. In the same interview he said, "I wanted the title America to have meaning, but I wanted it to mean a million different things to a million different people." This is what makes his ninth album so exciting: the mostly instrumental soundscapes will conjure different memories of the U.S. to each listener, and create an experience that is unique to everyone who spends time with the album.
America probably won't gather Dan Deacon a lot of new fans who don't already know and love him, but it should be an encouraging sign for the people who already love his music. All of the party jams are still intact, and his signature vocoder vocals shine through in fine form. Although it's always difficult to understand his lyrics through dense warbling effects-- most times they're downright indiscernible-- the message of America comes through clearly; all you have to do is sit down and listen to it.