Baltimore-bred electro provocateur Dan Deacon is best known for inciting random acts of audience participation at his energetic live shows, but in the three years since his last full-length album, he’s dedicated a good chunk of time to rediscovering his other musical passion: contemporary classical music.
Deacon’s background as a conservatory-trained electro-acoustic composer may be relatively meaningless to most of his party-rocking casual listeners, but the five pop songs that comprise the first half of America make that pedigree impossible to ignore. Tracks like “True Thrush” and “Prettyboy” find Deacon deliberately smoothing out the chip-tune vibe of his earlier work with subtle washes of strings, brass, and choral vocals, adding a layer of maturity to his famously manic sound.
But Deacon saves the true compositional muscle for the album’s second half, a four-part instrumental suite called “USA” that feels turbulent, twitchy, and ultimately triumphant, solidifying America as a worthy love letter to a land that, like Deacon’s arrangements, seems to become more and more complex with each passing day.
Playlist picks: “Prettyboy,” “True Thrush,” “USA III: Rail”