This is two reviews. One for people who know who Grizzly Bear is and one for those who don't.
For Those Who Know Who Grizzly Bear Is:
OK, yes, this is a Grizzly Bear side project. In many ways it sounds like Grizzly Bear. It has the same soft, earnest vocals and harmonies. It has a similar multilayered multi-instramental approach to folk music, what many would call "freak folk". But, I'd like you to consider the possibility that Department of Eagles is their own band, and what they're doing is possibly more vital and direct and exciting than anything on yellow house.
For Everyone Else:
I love the cover. It's like a spotlight on a section of trees, in the middle of a dark night. Every detail of the trees stands out, but it's as if these trees exist in the middle of nowhere. They are bright and vivid, and they fade to black. It's a great photo, and really sets the tone for what's inside.
To me this album sounds like some of the best mid-career Beatles. Where they stopped trying to be a regular teeny bopper rock band and got caught up in the psychadelia of their era, but before they began their post-modern howl of The White Album. Around Sgt. Peppers, and Abbey Road. I'm taking Maxwell's Silver Hammer, When I'm 64, The End, and A Day in the Life. Catchy, meaningful songs with beautiful singing and an innovative (for the time) approach to pop music.
Not that Department of Eagles is a Beatles clone. It's more like what the Beatles might make today if they were still alive and creative and vital… and, humble? The singer most certainly is more Paul McCartney than John Lennon though. If you can't stomach that soft-voiced indie singing, this may not be the band for you. It's no The Shins, though.
The main ingredient is guitar, but then all these shades of pastel find their way in, handclaps, trombone, effects, all somehow making it like space folk music come to earth. There's a range, probably from morose: death and classical music albums that cry because they are unplayed, to truly exciting. You could kind of compare them to, you know, Grizzly Bear.
I'm including one lovely song, No One Does it Like you, but I recommend you go over to Daytrotter, where they did almost an EP's worth of live recordings, some on the album and some new. Enjoy![audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/deptofeagles-noonedoesitlikeyou.mp3]