Album Review: Archive 2003-2006 by Department of Eagles
Very Good, Based on 5 Critics
Pitchfork - 81 Based on rating 8.1/10
Daniel Rossen's main act, Grizzly Bear, are unexpectedly popular, hitting the Billboard top 10 and provoking name-drops from such culturally disparate figures as Jay-Z and Michael McDonald. So why was In Ear Park, the 2008 sophomore effort from Department of Eagles, Rossen's side project with college roommate Fred Nicolaus, so criminally overlooked? Perhaps it was because of the nature of Rossen's songcraft itself. From his winding, unconventional guitar-led melodies to his tendency to prefer lyrical obtuseness, a whole album of material heavy on his participation can come off as overly arch and severe.
Department of Eagles’ lovely 2008 album, In Ear Park, was such a breakthrough for Daniel Rossen and Fred Nicolaus that it could be easy to forget that not only did the duo have a body of work before its release, but they tried to record a second album years before. The straightforwardly named Archive 2003-2006 captures the attempts Department of Eagles made over those years to make the follow-up to The Cold Nose (aka The Whitey on the Moon LP). Despite the scattered nature of the recording sessions and the varying states of completion these songs are in, Rossen and Nicolaus found ways to make this more than just a slapped-together collection of odds and sods.
Department of Eagles’ two principals -- Daniel Rossen (also of Grizzly Bear) and Fred Nicolaus -- met in the early part of last decade while attending NYU. They traded demos and decided to record together, resulting in a handful of 7-inch singles and a debut album that sounded exactly like what it was: a couple of college students with too much time, too many inside jokes, some pirated recording software, and a love of every genre under the sun. Yet in 2008, the duo released In Ear Park, one of the year’s best records and a nice appetizer for Grizzly Bear’s breakout 2009.
The release of In Ear Park on 4AD in 2008 took Department of Eagles on a rarefied journey toward fully-formed band status after commonly being regarded as an endearing side project partially conducted by Daniel Rossen from Grizzly Bear. Naturally, every artist involved in a side project hates it being called thus, but the scattering of recordings that preceded In Ear Park never really gave any inkling that this was anything other than a couple of former college dorm mates messing around in their bedrooms for fun. Perhaps the pairing actually missed that status, because they’ve returned to their origins, ransacked various tapes, and put together this compilation of recordings from the early days of the band.
A pretty excursion into the recent musical past of a talented pair. Mike Diver 2010 Until 2008’s sumptuous In Ear Park album, New York two-piece Department of Eagles was seen as little more than a sometime side project for full-time Grizzly Bear member Daniel Rossen. He formed the band, joining forces with university roommate Fred Nicolaus, back in 2001, and the pair released their The Cold Nose debut two years later.