Hmm, alright, new Dirty Projectors…this should be an easy review seeing how this is the second attempt of my illustrious career.
What a polarizing task indeed, and yet like the many greats before me, I shall try, because it is my duty to provide a service to the 5-10 visitors I have a day.
I think the biggest difficulty when attempting to review any Dirty Projectors piece of work, is that you feel like you’re critiquing someone who knows 100,000 times more about music than you do. By all means David Longstreth could probably review albums far better than me or anyone else out there, so how do I even dare enter his world?
But that is what the new self titled album ‘Dirty Projectors’ is, it’s his world, and we’re all lucky to be welcomed into it.
From the get go of “Keep Your Name”, we know we’re not in the same territory as “Bitte Orca” or “Swing Lo Magellan”. The immediate manipulation of his voice feels like an 808’s and Heartbreaks effect, and this theme continues throughout the album with references to Kanye and 808’s being made lyrically, and in terms of production.
Gone are the hard rock riffs and folk inspiration, and they are instead replaced with wet production and R&B and hip-hop beats to accompany his unique vocal delivery and harmonic layers. Grand in sound, scope, and composition, the album is very much a concept album, thematically.
From track 1-10, we go on a journey with Longstreth spanning the realization of difference with ex-girlfriend/band member Amber Coffman on “Keep your Name”, to the nostalgic brewing of “Up in Hudson”.
“Up in Hudson” opens with a beautiful horn intro that brings you to a peaceful place. Longstreth reminisces about the beginnings of his relationship with ex girlfriend/bandmate Amber Coffman, and allows himself to go down the road of painful nostalgia. The song goes back and forth from hope to cynicism, as he realizes all of the great in the beginning that somehow turned into nothing. “Love will burn away, love will fade away” he yelps in the chorus as we feel the array of emotions heartbreak can lead to. The song ends with an eerie and anxious guitar solo created with distortion and the scattered percussion feels like it’s a representation of Longstreth’s scattered emotions as he tries to create what heartbreak truly feels like.
Longstreth is able to paint an image with his lyrics, that is to the level of Frank Ocean. So vivid is his pain and anxiety, that you can’t help but wonder how brutal the process of making this album really was. Songs like “Little Bubble”, and “Winner take Nothing”, are vivid and beautiful stories about the good of love, and the realization that there is no winner in a breakup.
‘Little Bubble’, is my favourite song on this album, as the simplistic storytelling of the verses lead to this incredible piano led chorus. It is spectacular, and you can’t help but get all of the feels each time it refrains.
As the album progresses to its end, Longstreth becomes more calm in his lyrics, and more self reflective. There is growth within the man that has lost his band member, his girlfriend, and one of his best friends. He is a completely different person by the time “ I See You” rolls around which is the closing track, and at this point, Longstreth has accepted heartbreak and feels ready to move on.
We are guided along nearly every emotion that heartbreak and withdrawal can bring on this album, and we’re lucky that the story happened to be accompanied by great music. However, the album can be difficult for many. The poppiest track on this album is “Cool Your Heart”, and to call it “poppy” is a stretch. It’s the simplest in terms of structure, and composition, and will likely be the take away song in terms of memorable moments for most.
From Longstreth’s composition, to his delivery of falsetto lyrics, to his manipulation of his voice, it feels like this is the work of someone who has over thought every last detail and has tried to attain perfection. But through this, he has created something so alternative, and unique, that it may continue to be on the fringe of great indie records.
Perhaps the biggest service this album will have will be the ability to inspire songs with sampled beats. From a wonderful dance beat in “Ascent through Clouds”, to the amazing production on “Death Spiral”, you get the feeling that a song on this album may be sampled on a massive pop song in the coming years.
I really enjoyed this album, but I wonder if it has much staying power. I don’t foresee too many songs playing well with others, so that eliminates individual playlist selection. I don’t see myself jonesing to listen to this record, despite its incredible production, unique vision, and powerful story-telling, and because of that I give ‘Dirty Projectors’ a B+.
And remember kids, I am not God. This is just my opinion!
Album Highlights- “Keep your Name”, “Little Bubble”, “Cool your heart”
Album lowlights- None within the context of this album.