Yes‚ these days there does seem to be more "must-hear" indie-rock bands with animal names than you can keep track of. And yes‚ it does seem that Brooklyn has a secret neo-hipster factory hidden near Greenpoint that produces umpteen new bands a week. Fortunately‚ however‚ In Ear Park finds Department of Eagles sneaking out the side door of that party and bringing shoegaze back to the living room.
With three-fourths of Grizzly Bear making up the four-piece‚ the echoes of Grizzly's band dynamics are inescapable‚ but more focused song structure breathes a far different life into this band. Ten seconds into the title track‚ you already feel waist-deep in the album and you notice that rudimentary thoughts become increasingly harder to keep hold of. This record drifts and sweeps‚ but never drags‚ and the constant motion not only quickly absorbs you but also imposes an unfamiliar warmth. Bowed cellos and flamenco finger picking can suddenly morph into booming near-distortion drum and bass‚ and at first listen it can be slightly fear-inducing. Blissful music usually doesn't make you feel so unprepared‚ but In Ear Park thrives on the turn.
"No One Does It Like You" is the head-bobber of the album‚ and it sounds like something The Beta Band could have evolved into if they stopped trying so hard to sound like themselves. They never could have laid down such incredible vocal harmonies though‚ which ring of Brian Wilson yet can somehow sound somber and exuberant all at once. In many ways‚ In Ear Park is a lesson in the unheard harmony in dichotomy -- an expression of some modern symbiosis of warmth and darkness. Footsteps on floorboards edge into thunder-strings on "Classical Records‚" "Herring Bone" begins with a low G on the piano that sounds just as full as when the whole band kicks in‚ and "Floating on the Lehigh" manages to encompass the full spectrum of human emotion in six minutes. Four years in the making‚ patience is a central theme to this album‚ this band‚ and this music‚ and it might take a few listens to grasp the formula. Surely an entity unto themselves‚ don't call this band a side-project.