Dirty Projectors - Lamp Lit Prose - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Dirty Projectors - Lamp Lit Prose

by Mark Moody Rating:7 Release Date:2018-07-13
Dirty Projectors - Lamp Lit Prose
Dirty Projectors - Lamp Lit Prose

Over the span of two albums in not much more than a year, Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth has taken his listeners to the musical equivalent of church.  Last year’s self-titled break-up LP was decidedly funereal, while this year’s Lamp Lit Prose takes on the celebratory tone of a resurrection (if not of life, at least of love and a chance for new beginnings).  While there is nothing overtly religious on display, the opening track, ‘Right Now’ is fueled by a deliriously deconstructed melody pulled from ‘Amazing Grace’.  Longstreth wonders “don’t know how I’m gonna reach the promised land” and with horns blaring commands “sound the trumpet”.  With Longstreth’s vocals mutated through endless variations of the song title, guest vocalist Syd’s layered coos provide a perfect balance.  It seems not a far reach to the streets of gold from here and makes for a perfect statement to open up the album.

It certainly made sense for Longstreth to handle all the vocal duties on the prior LP given the need to wallow in the mire a bit, but here he smartly returns to vocal pairings.  Without a full time vocal partner (yet?), Longstreth plays the field with half the tracks having a guest vocalist on board.  Running the gamut from the sisters HAIM to Fleet Foxes’ leader Robin Pecknold most of the guests make meaningful, if not a bit underutilized, contributions.  Nowhere near the stamp, for instance, that Björk had on Mount Wittenberg Orca several years ago.  Maybe that would have made the album too chaotic, but controlled chaos has always been Dirty Projectors’ strong suit.  

In addition to the beauty of the opener and Syd’s understated, but essential, contribution there are several other winning pairings.  Maybe I’m a bit biased, but my favorite not-so-guilty pleasure band HAIM add classic harmonies to ‘That’s a Lifestyle’.  The bright acoustic guitar rhythm gives way to an out and out thinly veiled protest song (“who will not place himself higher than we”) with the sisters tightly behind Longstreth.  For some reason they are listed as backup singers, not co-contributors like most of the other guests.  Maybe that’s contractual somehow, but the song is a clear standout.  Likewise, even though she comes in late on the song, Empress Of’s Lorely Rodriguez adds the secret ingredient to ‘Zombie Conqueror’.  Her slightly-off pronunciation of “conqueror” becomes the bit of zest you want to hear over and over.  Pecknold and Rostam make for two-thirds of vocals on the folky ‘You’re the One’ that speaks to relationship ups and downs - “I’ve seen some springs and I’ve seen some falls”.  

Not all of the pairings throughout the album are as successful as the above though.  There’s nothing wrong with the duet with Amber Mark on ‘I Feel Energy’, it just comes off a little too much as standard dance floor fodder complete with hand claps.  And though no fault of guest Dear Nora (aka Katy Davidson), ‘(I Wanna) Feel It All’ has no energy whatsoever and makes a dull jazz based closer to such an upbeat album.  But there are plenty of other “guestless” tracks to make up for these.  The energetically off-kilter ‘Break-Thru’ recalls earlier albums’ best tracks that make art from coloring outside the lines.  Though veering towards the mainstream, ‘I Found It In U’ would have fit right in on aforementioned HAIM’s last album, and ‘What Is The Time’ sounds like some long lost O’Jays’ velvet jacket, finger-poppin' gospel-fueled vocal showcase.  

With many of the songs focused on redemption and renewal, it’s good to see Longstreth moving on while also acknowledging the past.  The songs are universal by not touching too many specifics, and the recurring red/blue orbs on the cover smartly don’t encapsulate any band members this time out.  But most of all Lamp Lit Prose benefits from having Longstreth pushing us to sing from our hymnals and get our asses out into the aisles.  It’s a lot more enjoyable than sobbing into our Kleenex. 

Comments (1)

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Yeah some of these collabs don't really work too well in the grand scheme of the album, and it's kind of a shame that he's pushing an album so full of collabs when he's a capable writer on his own. Good review, and I agree with your points Mark.

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