The Dirty Projectors Becoming A Solo Act Again



I’ve always thought the Dirty Projectors fly too far under the radar for a band with such uncompromising creativity and originality. Had they repeated themselves more often, and stuck to more prosaic themes and chord changes, they would have been Arcade Fire.

But the Projectors’ lead man and founder David Longstreth follows a long line of Rock iconoclasts who would rather confound an audience than appease one. He’s a wordy, nerdy 21st century David Byrne with a gift for finding gorgeous melody inside a framework of unconventional song structures and complex polyrhythms.

And the other thing that really stands out among the more recent of the Dirty Projectors six studio albums are the fantastic lead and backing vocals this band could deliver. When I first heard “Stillness Is The Move” off their 2009 breakthrough album Bitte Orca I had to pick my jaw up off the floor, the soaring vocals led by guitarist Amber Coffman were so unexpected.

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Longstreth himself has an elastic, soulful voice, and the male-female balance in the band for me always conjured up a bizarro Mamas & The Papas, a comparison that hit home hardest when the band worked with acoustic instruments in various styles.

Well the band has recently undergone a big shakeup with the departure of Coffman, and the band’s seventh studio album, which is due to drop on February 24, promises to be very different. Time will tell if it represents an improvement or not.

Coffman was not only Longstreth’s musical partner, they were also life partners, so the new album carries the emotional baggage of the breakup. Gone are most of the acoustic instruments, and it appears that Longstreth is turning the Dirty Projectors into a one-man electronica show, just like it was when he first recorded under that name in 2005.

It looks like he is steering the band almost into R&B territory, like a more soulful Bon Iver, with guest vocalists and other instrumentation replacing Coffman. Check out above a song from the new album “Up In Hudson”, a sad story about the breakup. It is all electronica-based, except for a really brilliant and original horn arrangement. And he closes the song with a minute of some beautiful grungy guitar tones. This guy continues to confound as he takes the band in a new direction.

Photo credit: By angela n. from Washington, DC (Dirty Projectors) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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