As Dan Deacon rightly acknowledges in an artist’s statement posted on his website, the word “America” is a loaded one. Encompassing a vast range of identities and behaviours, there’s not an emotion that couldn’t be associated with the place. Hence the reasoning behind Deacon’s decision to appropriate the name of the world’s greatest superpower to his latest album. As a testament to his self-identified internal conflict regarding his homeland, it is, incidentally, a decision well taken.
The 9-track album from Deacon is a show of contradictions. Tracks are alternately fast or slow, quiet or loud, ethereal or concrete. They are complex in their composition but simple in their execution — take, for example, “True Thrush” which pairs nearly childish repetition against a backdrop of complicated noise and esoteric meaning. Some have vocals and lyrics while others are pure sound collages. The tension of the album can be felt in specific songs as well, perhaps best exemplified in “Lots”. The track is remarkable in that one feels like it should be loud — it is fast and pounding, with a sharp, direct lyrical delivery — but it has been unnervingly restrained. Almost as though it is being heard in a vacuum, you sit on edge waiting for it to explode forward full throttle but it never does.
The indecisive nature of the album serves Deacon’s portrayal of himself well, speaking volumes to the struggle with his nationality he admits to on his website. The dichotomy between quiet and loud seen so many times on this album is also interesting in considering the struggle between having something to say and being heard. Deacon’s lyrics, when present, were supposedly conceived out of a desire to express frustrations with the world, and yet are consistently underemphasized and, consequently, unintelligible.
Conceptually, then, the album is extremely engaging and certainly leaves a lot of room for reflection and introspection. It is markedly personal without being explicit, although it should be noted that this might not come across without the help of Deacon’s related artist’s statement. That being said, America is certainly commendable in the way it puts a new spin on an old favourite — discovering an artist’s psyche through his or her music has never been more of an adventure.