Dirty Projectors' decade-long run, it's entirely possible that you've viewed bandleader Dave Longstreth and his ever-evolving band line-up as a gimmick. After all, though Longstreth had been releasing music as Dirty Projectors for years, the band finally inched toward a critical mass in 2007 on an album that reinterpreted Black Flag's Damaged from memory. The album found Longstreth replacing Rollins' gruff bellow with alien, elastic vocals, anchored to the zigs and zags of West African guitar. Two years later, Bitte Orca used a trio of female vocalists-- mainstays Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian and newcomer Haley Dekle-- to bait often abstruse arrangements and hard-to-parse lyrics. When Questlove posted a backstage video of the Projectors performing an unplugged "When the World Comes to an End" after a "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" appearance, internet commentators concurred that people simply shouldn't be able to sing like that. Between the intercalated harmonies, Longstreth's own sometimes-stringent tone, and his counterintuitive approach to guitar, Dirty Projectors occasionally could be reduced into a menagerie of eccentricities-- possible to enjoy, but sometimes difficult to internalize.
Swing Lo Magellan should help rectify that:
The band's least ornate batch of songs to date builds upon Longstreth's
most direct and identifiable lyrics ever. Which means that Dirty
Projectors have upped their emotional and structural accessibility all
at once. Culled from a batch of roughly 40 demos, these tunes explore
vulnerability and vexation, sweetness and cynicism with more manageable
musical complications than ever before. For instance, the gorgeous
"Impregnable Question" finds the seam between Heart of Gold-era Neil Young and late-1960s Serge Gainsbourg; it's
a love song between Coffman and Longstreth, her coos helping him to
soften his voice above a warm acoustic shuffle. Over handclaps and a
ragged, wrapping riff on "Dance for You", Longstreth offers one of his
most intuitive and immediate hooks. There's gusto and playfulness here,
too, from the way Longstreth clears his very-warped throat before
launching into the first verse of opener "Offspring Are Blank" to the
brilliant decision to record Coffman and Dekle mocking some of
Longstreth's most impenetrable lyrics toward the end of the
irrepressible "Unto Caesar". When he sings "Down the line/ Dead, the
martyrs' morbid poetry," Coffman teasingly answers, "Uhh, that doesn't
make any sense, what you just said." You want to be in the room with
via Pitchfork (read the rest there)
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