The old vanguard is growing up. Have you been feeling it lately? Panda Bear, the man largely responsible for the freak folk/pop movement of the past decade just released a somber, melancholic album about coming to terms with death. Mastodon is basically a hard rock band. Real Estate’s last album soundtracked the cleaning of the mess made by the good times of their previous records. Even North America’s most infamous rabble rouser, Kanye West, is out here releasing McCartney-helmed ballads about his family. All your favourite artists of the mid-to-late oughties are currently in a period of aging gracefully. With Gliss Riffer, Dan Deacon joins this lexicon, albeit on his own, very Dan Deacon-y terms.
In a lot of the interviews for the press cycle leading to the release of Gliss Riffer, Deacon has been speaking a significant amount about his former ‘stress addiction’ and how he would purposefully put himself in stressful situations in order to drive himself. Looking back on his discography, this makes a lot of sense. His debut Spiderman of the Rings is about as stressful as exuberant glee can be, Bromst basically contains an entire universe in its 64 minute run time, and America revolves around such a high concept there’s no way that pulling it off wasn’t headache inducing. Gliss Riffer feels like a reaction to his high strung catalog. Where many of his past tracks have felt like experiments in zaniness, the majority of Gliss Riffer follows relatively straight forward pop conventions and structures…relatively speaking, anyway. This is still Dan Deacon we’re talking about.
We first saw this side of Deacon on the opening salvo on America, songs that took the forward-moving momentum of his earlier work and compressed them into digestible nuggets of electro-pop. Those songs were effective but were ultimately outshone by the 22 minute neo-classical suite that closed out the album. Without any overbearing concepts bogging down the record, Gliss Riffer doubles down on the songwriting, resulting in his leanest, catchiest album to date.
Over the course of his three previous albums Deacon has developed a fairly singular sound, pretty impressive given how all over the place a lot of his music is. But fans of the man now what I mean; vocals pitched to sound like cartoon characters, high speed frenetic percussion, lots of chanting and fetishized glockenspiel over squealing synths. Deacon is a heart an experimentalist, and Gliss Riffer finds him experimenting with his established sound to produce results that are still definitively Deacon. Take the 808-indebted Detroit bounce of “Meme Generator,” or the ambient sparkle of closing track “Steely Blues.” Nothing like these tracks have ever popped up on any previous Dan Deacon releases, and this is ultimately where Gliss Riffer succeeds. America was a great record, but the “USA” suite aside, the sounds were feeling a bit stale. We’d heard that iteration of Deacon before, just in more expanded terms. Gliss Riffer proves that the man can still innovate without relying on purely insane methods of creation. By tapping into already established genres and tweaking them to fit his mold, Dan Deacon sounds fresh again, willing to step outside the wacky yet expiring universe he’s created for himself.
Dan Deacon is notorious for his absurdly fun live shows. Audience participation is as important as the performance, the manic energy of his music is meant to be channelled through everyone at the show via human tunnels and call and response singalongs. Deacon’s step away from this musical and personal stress he once thrived on should have an interesting effect on the tour behind Gliss Riffer; will he retain the craziness of his past performances and bend his new, more chill material to fit with it, or will the new shows reflect this newfound maturity? Whatever route he chooses, Gliss Riffer has me confident in his ability to adapt.
Ridiculous Made Up Genre of the Day: twitch-pop