First Listen: Dan Deacon, 'America'

NPR icon by Bob Boilen
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America is an album packed with melody and noise, minimalism and excess, harshness and beauty — sometimes all the same time. Dan Deacon's music is steeped in pop, electronics and classical music, making this record an absolute adventure.

Deacon spent time studying composition and electronic music at Purchase College, State University of New York. He was encouraged to be playful at a time when minimalism was already having an impact on not only new classical music but pop music like the Talking Heads and rap. And you can hear all of that on this album — those modal forms, hypnotic drones and fierce beats. And there are simplistic and lulling marimba sounding rhythms on this record made of what sounds like cello, piano and percussion. And make no mistake, there's electronics — gigantic, walloping walls of sound that grate and enchant, gnaw and delight.

Side One of America is the pop side, and here Deacon has played with his singing style somewhat. In the past, it's fair to say, it was more chant and repetition; on America it can be more word driven. And even when the music is dense, there's more space. The sounds are more clearly defined and the total is experience less exhausting and more exhilarating. It's still intense, but it's friendlier.

Side Two is a piece in 4 parts. The piece is called USA, a play on the name of an old favorite band of Dan's called the USAISAMONSTER. The band had done an epic concert at his home, Baltimore's Wham City, and that inspired Deacon to compose something very very big. It's a piece of music that made him feel happy to be living in America. It's devoid of politics and celebrates the land.

America is not a one-listen record. You have the whole week to sink your teeth into this, so take the time and do it. If the sounds feel brash, let them wash over you. This album is worth the ride.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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