RATE Archives 2003-2006:
Five of the eleven songs on Department of Eagles’ third full-length release, Archives 2003-2006, are titled “Practice Room Sketch.” Each sketch is a variation on the same theme – a lo-fi meandering piano line or two, occasionally joined by lead singer Daniel Rossen’s voice. Taken on their own they are simplistic studies, diversions from the real task at hand. In the context of Archives 2003-2006, however, they make complete sense. This isn’t supposed to be a polished album; instead, it’s a collection of nearly formed ideas, raw and largely untouched by studio sheen. For Rossen, best known for his work with the ultra-produced and acoustically minded Grizzly Bear, it’s a fascinating insight into the inner sanctum of a singer often separated from emotion by knobs and dials.
Department of Eagles are to Grizzly Bear what Sunset Rubdown is to Wolf Parade – a peek at a major band’s frontman going his own way, exploring a related but divergent sonic space. These demos show Rossen trying out ideas that will eventually worm their way into Grizzly Bear’s oeuvre, in their most basic form. Tracks like “While We’re Young” and “Flip” find Rossen – and college roommate Fred Nicolaus – running amok with a refreshing looseness, content to ignore minor imperfections here and there. It’s impossible not to hear the roots of Veckatimest in these songs, particularly in the stellar “Brightest Minds,” but at the same time Archives 2003-2006 captures something completely different. Even moreso than Department of Eagles’ last album, In Ear Park, this record is absolutely lacking in pretension. Somehow, these sketches capture both a moment in the past and a glimpse of what could, hopefully, remain to come.
79 — [Rating Scale]