Eagles Soar in ‘Park’

Courtesy of Amelia Bauer

Courtesy of Amelia Bauer
Department of Eagles’ sophomore effort is the product of two former New York University roommates.

If you listen to music regularly, you figure it’s a process. Not every record you listen to will catch your imagination. There are plenty that are hit or miss, and then there are some that are just plain bad. The idea of months or years of toil to produce a record has sympathetic listeners rationalizing the bore of albums that just don’t click. But through all the clutter, you occasionally, and I mean once in a long while, find a record that just hits you. There’s no rationalization, just the world that the album transports you to for an hour. The Department of Eagles has made that record.
While the band has a history that’ll make any indie fan boy giddy. The band is essentially Grizzly Bear without Ed Droste, and with Daniel Rossen’s New York University roommate Fred Nicolaus. But it goes beyond that, as DOE arose in an NYU dorm room between Nicolaus and Rossen far before Grizzly Bear was a critics’ darling. After the group’s erratic yet promising debut “The Cold Nose,” Rossen joined Grizzly Bear while Nicolaus kept himself busy. But the two kept writing and the result is the grand “In Ear Park.”
The album starts with the self-titled track plucking along innocently. The record is named after a nickname Rossen gave a park that he and his father, who passed away in 2007, used to visit. The nostalgic ease that permeates the record is apparent from the onset, as Rossen reminisces, “Down to the docks / And sit in the grass / Right in your spot / In ear park.”
The majestic sweep of the opener gives way to the crunch of the spunky “No One Does It Like You.” The song bounces through playfully, despite the occasional glum lyric. “Phantom Other” comes next, an eerie tune of angst and trouble. This stand-out builds up and then cools down with a soft acoustic guitar. Nicolaus shines next on the gorgeous “Teenagers,” contrasting Rossen’s vocal style with something that’s out of the 1960s. Nicolaus carries the track until the guitar and handclaps creep up on him. “Around the Bay” and “Herring Bone” work in tandem—the former will give you the shivers while the latter will sweep you off your feet.
“Classical Records” builds to a frantic march which is cut short when “Waves of Rye” eases the record back down. This track constantly feels like it’s going to take off, but is controlled by Rossen until the band lets loose to close, which is fitting for such a claustrophobic song.
After a short interlude, the album’s longest track, “Floating on the Lehigh,” takes center stage. Simple lyrics are juggled between heavy chords and the band’s crooning while “Balmy Night” closes the record with a wave of guitar picking similar to the one with which it opened. Rossen again recalls his childhood and his father, in what had to have been a cathartic album for him.
Don’t be fooled by the Grizzly Bear ties; this album definitely stands on its own two feet. Fans of “Yellow House” are sure to enjoy this, as Rossen’s songwriting has a familiar feel, even though his material on “In Ear Park” proves to be far more intimate and stripped-down, properly showcasing the talents of Nicolaus to an unaware public. In an industry where being flashy might get you further along than having substance, Rossen and Nicolaus have created one of the most personal records of the year by effortlessly tying together deep themes from their past with instantly accessible melodies and metaphors, which is not bad for a couple of guys that were assigned to be college roommates.