It’s no coincidence that this album is titled America because the album is perfect for one of those iconic American pastimes: the road trip. In an interview with NPR, Deacon articulates this: “I do many, many cross-country trips a year because I tour, and it's hard to — you could really despise every aspect of what you think American culture is but it's hard to deny that the land itself is beautiful.” Songs like “True Thrush” and “Lots” have a speedy, galloping pace reminiscent of pavement flying under the wheels of the car. Noises and chirps soar by like the many bugs and birds that fly by your windshield. Looking out the window, the rush of hundreds of pine trees suddenly gives way to a field of golden corn. Now imagine all this corn is actually multicolored, and you’re getting an idea of what the songs are like. The purely gleeful epicness of these songs evoke the very American feeling of freedom, of unshackling yourself from the past and blazing a new trail: “Cold throne, no sire/Black earth past fire/Flushed out regret/No past, no sense/Brave days ahead/None rest, none yet/Once choice to make/Get ready to go”.
The album then moves to “Prettyboy” which stands for that moment in your journey when night has fallen, and you’re tired; you take your sweatshirt and put it between your head and the car door as a makeshift pillow. You look up at the night sky and the stars and blissfully contemplate the mysteries of the universe: Why are we here? What’s out there? Are we alone? Deacon does a good job of pummeling you with loud soundscapes, but then has the good sense to not pummel you with some frankly beautiful songs.
The latter half of the album is the “USA” suite consisting of four movements: Is a Monster, The Great American Desert, Rail, and Manifest. During this suite, we hear another unlikely pairing: classical and electronic. Working with what may seem like foes on the surface level, Deacon brings together a John-Williams-esque score with his brand of fuzzy electronics and tribal beats. They may seem like a beauty and a beast, but they sure do dance an elegant dance.
Throughout the entire album, Deacon brings a level of ambition that stands toe-to-toe with the country itself. He taps into all of its grandeur, inconsistencies, surprises, and, of course, weird noises.
Written by Ross Crandall, Radio K volunteer.