Dirty Projectors - Dirty Projectors - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Dirty Projectors - Dirty Projectors

by Justin Pearson Rating:8 Release Date:2017-02-24

Dirty Projectors returns with a new album, and a breakup one at that. Self-titled, but certainly not self-pitying, it sees Dave Longstreth going solo as the creative force after the end of a personal and professional relationship with previous band member Amber Coffman. Also missing in the lineup is Angel Deradoorian, having recently released her own album back in 2015. Even without these two usual female contributors to the project, it still feels like a Dirty Projectors album.

The songs are simultaneously brutally honest, painful, regretful, sad, and wistful. But instead of wallowing in the misery that this type of subject matter usually signals, Longstreth turns the experience of heartache into a catharsis that acknowledges the end of something while pointing to a new beginning. You only need to listen to 'Up In Hudson' to hear his newfound confidence. It feels loose and freestyle, but at its core it showcases what he's always done best, which is making carefully constructed beats and rhythms appear dissonant on first listen, only to eventually realize everything's intentional, and therein lies his genius as a songwriter. The song chronicles the first meeting of Longstreth and Coffman, and the excitement in the air that pervaded those beginning threads of a loving and creative relationship. When he gets to the angry, aching refrain, he sings it with such passion that it floats away to become something else entirely, leaving him relieved of his past while we the listeners are stunned by its soaring height and intensity above an insistent brass section: "And love will burn up/ And love will just fade away/ And love's gonna rot/ And love will just dissipate." As sad as the lines look in print, hearing them belted out is something other entirely. There's pure exaltation in his voice, enough to produce goosebumps each time you hear it.

The Dirty Projectors brand of experimentation is still fully intact, but there's so much more feeling and passion here you could just as well slot it in the Soul/R&B genre. 'Winner Take Nothing' is a perfect example of this. Longstreth's vocals are stretched to their limit, but rather than break, they cut right through with the smoothness of any classic crooner: "Fight and we can only lose/ Killing me and killing you." The lyrical insight of the song is as sharp as a knife, but its melody has a buttery slide rather than a slashing sting.

'Little Bubble' is just as smooth, but even more so with its lullaby-like quality. The soft strings and imagery of leisurely waking in the morning next to a lover with "rays of light like champagne" makes the fragility of the situation that much more poignant, but never utterly hopeless. When Longstreth sings the line "We had our own little bubble for a while", it's with nostalgia, not despair.

Opener 'Keep Your Name' sees his vocals creepily modulated almost beyond recognition, submersed in the mud of the details surrounding his break with Coffman and dredging up the past. It works well for the narrative of both the song and album, but part of that past becomes literal as Longstreth samples the Dirty Projectors Swing Lo Magellan cut 'Impregnable Question' with the reworked motif "We don't see eye to eye."

'Cool Your Heart' featuring DAWN could fit onto either Bitte Orca or Swing Lo Magellan with its jerky rhythms and deep bass, but what makes it stand out from past tracks is the tropical vibe it employs without becoming corny. It's just another moment of boundary-pushing without losing sight of accessibility, something that this album seems to be especially keen on.

What Dirty Projectors proves is that an end isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes it's just the thing one needs to find the road ahead. Obviously Longstreth is on that road, and the dust he's leaving behind doesn't seem like it will settle anytime soon.

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