America

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America finds quirky soundsmith Dan Deacon at a crossroads. Still bent on emitting giddy, hyperactive music, the Baltimore native has widened his lens this time around, intent on capturing his country through the record’s latter half. The ambitious “USA” suite sprawls joyfully, particularly in its middle sections. “USA II: The Great American Desert” is a collage of spinning synths, disembodied vocals, and far-reaching scope that runs for seven dazzling minutes. “USA III: Rail” waives Deacon’s trademark squalls of electro-feedback and squealing vocals for a homespun ensemble of horns, bells, and flutes. The result is a fluttery piece of music, uplifting and contemplative, perfect for vehicular window-gazing.   Elsewhere, early highlight “True Thrush” pulses with warmth and pounding percussion, occasionally recalling a slightly-minimized Fuck Buttons. His vocals are still flush with exuberance, and zany sonics still peek out from behind bushels of synthesizer, two hallmarks that gave 2007‘s Spiderman of the Rings its gabbling energy. Sadly, that record’s abrasive tendencies resurface here, in the hard-charging but brash “Lots” and the mediocre “Crash Jam”. These songs are thick on energy but thin on embracing the listener, instead preferring to blare from behind a barrier of mild interest tinged with battered confusion. Placed directly between those two, though, “Prettyboy” is a welcome shake-up from the aggression, an enjoyable wash of space noise, aided by pianos and horns, in the vein of a ballad. Continuously changing shape, but carefully, rippling with introspection.   At times, America feels like a great leap forward for Deacon. Some of his best tracks reside here, but when offset by various spotty moments (the bland bookends of the “USA” suite, for example) the end result gives off divisive fumes.