By Andrew Parks
While we’ve already thrown our support behind Department of Eagles‘ long-awaited second album (In Ear Park, out today through 4AD), self-titled was happy to see the band’s core duo–Daniel Rossen of Grizzly Bear and longtime friend/collaborator Fred Nicolaus–in fine living, breathing form last night. That wouldn’t be an accomplishment in the case of most 7-year-old acts, except, well …
“This is my first time here,” Rossen said, speaking to a sold-out crowd at Brooklyn’s latest new venue, the beautifully-designed-but-inconveniently-located Bell House. “This is also our first show.”
While he was certainly serious (Department of Eagles has basically been a bedroom project until now), the joke was lost on quite a few Grizzly Bear fans who wanted to see Rossen in a more intimate habitat than the larger venues he’s hit in the past year. Not to say there weren’t some early DOE adopters among us, shouting out such seemingly obscure requests as “Forty Dollar Rug!” To which a dumbfounded Rossen responded, “An acoustic version of ‘Forty Dollar Rug?’ Yeah, we’re not gonna do that.” (The original is coated in samples and cheeky rap verses about Playstation 2 and Tony Hawk 4.)
The elimination of Ali G-caliber hip-hop from Department of Eagles’ debut show was about the only buzz kill of an hour-long set. If anything, the night was nothing but a free-wheeling revue, frequently switching between a full band setup (including Grizzly Bear drummer Christopher Bear), Nicolaus & Rossen duets, and a handful of solo performances that brought out the distinct golden pipes in both players. “We’re now going to demonstrate why Daniel is the lead singer of this group,” Nicolaus joked, as he belted out a track that revealed a rootsy, Neil Young-esque voice that is the group’s secret weapon on such new songs as “Classical Records” and our second favorite In Ear Park cut, the beyond-the-grooves broadcast of “Teenagers.”
As for the album’s lead single, the pitch-perfect pop tune “No One Does It Like You,” it absolutely electrified an otherwise laidback set (Rossen busted out a banjo and his bayou balladry side at one point) alongside a few other potential singles (“Phantom Other,” a particularly chilling “Around the Bay”) that easily match the standouts on Grizzly Bear’s own masterpiece, 2006’s Yellow House. With a new album expected from that camp next year, it’s clear the Grizzly Bear/Department of Eagles dichotomy is as top-notch as the Panda Bear/Animal Collective balance that’s made New York’s other leading indie rock troupe such an unpredictable treasure over the last couple years. We eagerly await what’s next from both.