Dan Deacon

Mystic Familiar

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Mystic Familiar marks Dan Deacon's return to making majestically arranged synth pop, after several years spent concentrating on film scores and his long-term involvement with the contemporary classical world. Continuing to explore the existentialist lyrical themes of 2015's Gliss Riffer, he reflects on his personal experiences without directly detailing any specific instances; instead concentrating on intense feelings and channeling them through his music. Deacon's singing voice sounds closer to Wayne Coyne's than ever, and he maintains a similar sense of determined optimism, even while facing a scary, oppressive world filled with darkness and negativity. The lyrics are encouraging and empowering without relying on self-help clich├ęs, and they maintain the surrealist bent of Deacon's previous work without seeming as cartoonish. With titles like "Become a Mountain," "Sat by a Tree," and "Fell Into the Ocean," the songs evoke images from nature, motivating the listener to seize the moment and make this short life count before it's over. Like much of his work since 2009's astounding Bromst, the arrangements are driving and full of excitement, but not quite in the same manic sugar-rush way as Spiderman of the Rings. The interlocked rhythms are urgent without being too forceful; on "Fell Into the Ocean," Deacon commands "first you must relax before transcend," and this fittingly describes how his music eases into revelation. The album's centerpiece is the four-movement "Arp" suite, which begins with soft, squeaky synths before building up a racing drum pattern, breaking free midway for a celestial sax solo by Andrew Bernstein. Deacon reassures the listener that inner peace "starts any moment you'd like." Mystic Familiar's triumphant victory lap is "Bumble Bee Crown King," a dazzling instrumental featuring Dustin Wong's unmistakable, spellbinding guitar work.

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