Pop & Hiss

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Department of Eagles land at the Troubadour tonight

January 23, 2009 |  4:16 pm

When Department of Eagles released their sophomore album "In Ear Park" in October, the Brooklyn-based band didn’t plan to play more than the record release show. But four months later they’re on a national tour, and “Park” placed on many critics' Best of 2008 lists. Tonight, the indie-rock duo will appear for a sold-out show at the Troubadour.

“It’s really not a band, it’s a project,” Daniel Rossen said in an interview when the record was released. Rossen and bandmate Fred Nicolaus, who formed the duo in a freshman dorm at New York University, recorded “In Ear Park” while Rossen's other band, Grizzly Bear, was on a recent hiatus. Grizzly Bear rose to prominence after their 2006 effort "Yellow House" won wide praise, and Grizzly Bear subsequently opened for Radiohead and played with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Department of Eagles had lain dormant for years while Rossen and Nicolaus tried to find the time to record.

For Rossen, the show is a return to his native Los Angeles with an album he recorded for his father, who died of cancer in 2007. "In Ear Park" is a musical memoir of Rossen’s childhood in L.A.; the album’s title is a reference to Veterans Park in West L.A., where Rossen thought one of the statues resembled an ear when he was a child. 

Live, Department of Eagles give an intimate, stripped-down show, perhaps in calculated contrast to the baroque arrangements of Grizzly Bear. And although comparisons are inevitable, "In Ear Park's" deeply personal lyrics mark the music as distinct from Grizzly Bear. Department of Eagles’ first release, 2003’s "The Whitey on the Moon UK LP," is a frenetic assemblage of acoustic guitars and samples, spliced over software-produced beats. Only about 1,000 copies were made. With "In Ear Park," Department of Eagles explore a bigger sound, but keep the playful quality of the project both onstage and in recordings.

Rossen says the experience of singing alone with his guitar onstage has been both new and revealing. “It’s not like I want to be a solo artist, but the intimacy of it is cool,” he said. And Grizzly Bear fans need not fret over Eagles’ success -- work on the next Grizzly Bear album has already begun.

-- Guelda Voien

Department of Eagles play at 8 tonight at the Troubadour, 9081 Santa Monica Blvd. $15. Currently sold out, but you never know...

Photo by Amelia Bauer