THE NEW SELF-TITLED ALBUM does everything we want and expect from Dirty Projectors — but in a way that we never could have imagined or anticipated. In a career of surprising conceptual gambits, unexpected stylistic shifts, and continually changing lineups — this is, as DJ Khaled says, “ANOTHER ONE”!
A PROTEAN, SHAPE-SHIFTING CHAMELEON, Dave Longstreth, the founding member and sole constant Projector, goes where the music is: he builds his band and arrangements around the songs he’s writing in that moment.
‘Dirty Projectors’ is a BREAKUP ALBUM. These songs, coming out of a place of heartbreak & depression, began as private gestures of catharsis & healing. DL couldn’t see any future for Dirty Projectors, much less imagine these as Dirty Projectors songs, until he went to LA, where Rick Rubin urged him that this is exactly what they are.
The ABSENCE OF FEMALE VOICES — notably that of the beloved Amber Coffman — becomes both the subject of the album and the engine of its most inspired leaps: allowing DL to branch out as a producer & arranger, encouraging him to hone his songcraft, and forcing him to focus on his own voice, to revelatory result.
Perhaps the greatest surprise is that Longstreth’s VOICE — one of the most iconic & divisive in music today — has gone from being a sometime-liability to his music’s greatest and most expressive asset. The CHOPPING, LAYERING, SPEEDING UP & SLOWING DOWN of the voice is processing both literal and metaphoric: DL works through the new absence on a course of self-examination, interrogation, reflection. But his natural voice is the great reveal: out of the black hole of loss comes a quantum spark of CONFIDENCE & PURE FEELING.
From the baritone lament of Keep Your Name to the crooning pathos of Little Bubble and the breathless falsetto leaps of Winner Take Nothing, these songs establish DL as one of music’s most VERSATILE, ORIGINAL SINGERs.
The album flexes DL’s tremendous GROWTH & STRENGTH AS A PRODUCER. Classic Projectors trademarks are here — guitar, hocketing, powerful three-part vocal harmony — as a foundation for a new world of insanely fresh drum patterns, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, brass choir, string quartet, piano, modular synth, Kontakt and Arturia patches, all tied together in dizzying next-level arrangements. DL is at the top of his game as one of 2017’s most original producers in any genre.
DL himself remains agnostic about genre and ecumenical in his inspiration. In some ways, the album answers the question Dirty Projectors posed way back in 2009 — before the waves of nu-r&b and Beyoncé quoting the Yeah Yeah Yeahs — with STILLNESS IS THE MOVE: what would a post-genre collision of r&b, indie rock and other music sound like? From the SUBTWEET BOP of Keep Your Name to the DIGITAL BENEDICTION that is I See You, this is truly GENRELESS MUSIC that pushes at and expands the edges of what we’re used to hearing.
DL cites Karl Ove Knausgård, Joni Mitchell, and Drake as his most passionately explored writers of the last few years, and there’s a new DEPTH & LYRICISM in this suite of richly complex songs. Self-reflection and fantasy helix together in DETAILED LAYERS OF STORY: rife in ambiguity, raging with doubt and ambivalence, labyrinthine in their self-contradiction. Considering this range, the NARRATIVE UNITY of the album is astounding. Dirty Projectors is known for concept albums — from the collaboration with Björk, ‘Mount Wittenberg Orca’ (2010), to the glitch opera ‘The Getty Address’ (2005), to the Black-Flag-reimagined opus ‘Rise Above’ (2007). And now ‘Dirty Projectors’ is the most TAUT, UNIFIED, CONTINUOUS ARC of storytelling yet — beginning with the anger and self-recrimination of “Keep Your Name” and ending with the forgiveness and reconciliation of “I See You.”
DL has made a breakup album before: his first album, the rare and out-of-print ‘Graceful Fallen Mango,’ from 2001. Fifteen years later, Dirty Projectors is arriving where you began and knowing the place for the first time. The significance of it being a self-titled record is clear: ‘Dirty Projectors’ is both A HOMECOMING AND A REDISCOVERY. Time is a spiral, and this is an astounding, vivid, immersive piece of music — YOU JUST GOTTA HEAR IT!