Chosen One: Dirty Projectors
Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry
Dirty Projectors is the musical vision of David Longstreth whose band returns this year with their highly anticipated sixth studio album, ‘Swing Lo Magellan’. Like fellow Brooklyn residents, Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective, Longstreth and co. make utterly compelling experimental indie pop for the 21st Century. Multi-instrumentalist, arranger and songwriter, David Longstreth has come to be the 21st century David Byrne for new wave music songcraft.
Over the past decade, his rolling cast of musicians of Dirty Projectors have made utterly unique artistic creations. Longstreth and co. remaked Black Flag’s ‘Damaged’ album from memory on 2007’s ‘Rise Above, created a song cycle based on The Eagle’s Don Henley on 2005’s ‘The Getty Address’ and created an emblem of the live band on 2009’s masterpiece ‘Bitte Orca’. More recently, they have collaborated with Bjork on the ‘Mount Wittenburg Orca’ ep and worked with David Byrne on the charity ‘Dark Was The Night’ compilation produced by Red Hot Organization. Importantly, Dirty Projectors in 2012 find themselves as a solid five-piece unit with the partnership of Longstreth and Coffman as the bright spark. The vehicle for Longstreth’s songwriting is namely, Amber Coffman (vocals and guitar), Mike Johnson (drums), Nat Baldwin (bass) and Haley Dekle (vocals).
On the making of Dirty Projectors’ ‘Swing Lo Magellan’ the band spent twelve months in the seclusion of Delaware, County outside New York, where a separate headspace existed which provided another mindset for Longstreth. This solitude and calm of place is very evident throughout the album. On the band’s latest release, a directness and emotional clarity exists where Longstreth has moved away from abstraction and in turn, has written very personal songs. ‘Swing Lo Magellan’ is a sublime folk pop tour de force with a country feel. The album’s playfulness and directness strikes similarities to ‘John Wesley Harding’ era Bob Dylan. David Longstreth has said ‘Swing Lo Magellan’ is ‘more about the songs’ and what a set of awe-inspiring songs they are.
‘Impregnable Question’ is an achingly beautiful love song with delicate piano, bass and drums. ‘In happiness and in strife/You are my love and I want you in my life’ Longstreth sings over a gorgeous piano and backing harmony. The ballad belongs on either Beatles masterpiece ‘Sgt Pepper’ or ‘Revolver’ such is the song’s greatness. ‘Dance For You’ is pop music at its sensational best, reminiscent of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ golden creation. A soulful electric guitar is played over mesmerizing percussion and drums before an orchestra swirls beautifully in the bridge and chorus. ‘There is an answer/I haven’t found it/But I will keep dancing ’till I do’ Longstreth sings on the song’s chorus over a film score of strings is the album’s finest moment.
‘About To Die’ is an irresistible pop gem with futuristic electronic sounds and looped violins echoing Owen Pallett. The first single ‘Gun Has No Trigger’ is R&B influenced with pristine production with Longstreth’s glorious falsetto on the chorus. The title-track is ‘Harvest’ era Neil Young; a glorious folk pop gem with an immediacy and directness that hits you to the core. The last verse is sheer poetry, ‘I saw my frame in a pool of light/All drowned in doubt and shame/I knew that I had lost my sight’. ‘See What She Seeing’ is a beautiful song of longing with drum machines, electronic tweakings, strings and Coffman’s backing vocals providing the perfect musical backdrop, ‘Every time I think I’ve found her/Just what I’ve found is unclear’. Amber Coffman takes centre stage on ‘The Socialites’ which is a crystalized pop creation recalling the band’s previous collaborative work with Bjork.
The album closer ‘Irresponsible Tune’ is at the intersection of Grizzly Bear and The Beatles which could either be taken from ‘Yellow House’ or ‘Revolver’. The album’s final words ‘There’s a bird singing at my window, an irresponsible tune’ paints a landscape of beauty, simplicity and directness. ‘Swing Lo Magellan’ is just that.
‘Swing Lo Magellan’ is out now on Domino.