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Dan Deacon -- 'America' (Domino)
RATING: *** (out of 4 stars)
If Dan Deacon's first album, 2007's "Spiderman of the Rings," was too cartoonish and short-sighted and his follow-up, 2009's "Bromst," was too dense and insular, then the Baltimore indie-pop maestro has concisely melded his split personalities on "America" (ironically his first release for the London-based Domino Recording Company).
Deacon recently said he left D.C.'s Carpark Records for Domino because his growth in Europe had stalled. After hearing the nine-track, 43-minute long "America," Deacon's pursuit of success on a larger scale makes sense. These are sophisticated, composed songs bubbling with broader appeal compared to Deacon's earlier work.
Tracks such as "Lots" and "Prettyboy" are within Deacon's wheelhouse -- driving percussion, waves of synthesizers and hazily distorted vocals -- while still hinting at his pop sensibilities. The album's second half, "USA I-IV," takes what Deacon has learned from recent work with orchestras and ensembles and applies it to his world. But it's the unabashedly saccharine "True Thrush" that transcends the rest of his album and even his entire catalog, proving Deacon doesn't need to outsmart the listener with his compositional chops when he's riding the wave of a potent melody. He simply needs to balance both sides of his extremely busy brain. --Wesley Case
October 1, 2012