For well over a decade the Dirty Projectors’ bandleader, Dave Longstreth, has shocked the indie-rock scene with a sound truly unlike any other. What Longstreth brings to the table is complex arrangements and his uniquely melismatic voice in order to create records that are smart, inventive, and ultimately paves the road for indie-rock music. It has been almost 5 years since the release of the bands’ last full album, “Swing Lo Magellan,” and their new self-titled album represents the beginning of a new era for the Dirty Projectors. As singles from the album began being released earlier this year it became evident that the beloved vocalist, and girlfriend of Longstreth, Amber Coffman has left the band. The breakup between Longstreth and Coffman marks “Dirty Projectors” as more than just a breakup album—it is the type of album that will be embalmed in history for representing heartbreak itself.
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Though “Dirty Projectors” maintains the same off-beat music style as previous albums, there is a quality to this album that makes it hauntingly beautiful and dark. The songs are not as up-beat and majestic as previously seen, making it clear that this is truly the product of Longstreth’s heartbreak. The album opens with the single “Keep Your Name” which has a low-key beat maintained by rhythmic drums and simple percussion. Though there is never a point in the album where Longstreth is outwardly angry at Coffman, here he points out the differences between him and her and how that created conflict in their relationship.
Similarly to “Keep Your Name,” there are certain songs that are clearly fueled by the anger of his heartbreak. “Winner Takes Nothing” has the depressing message that everyone ultimately loses in a breakup—even if the breakup was warranted. “Work Together” has elements of an electronic dance song as Longstreth sings about his desire for the two to be able to work together, but they were never able to. “Death Spiral” uses the guitar to create a sort of electronic-flamenco sound as repetitive beats spin the listener into the “death spiral” he sings about. It is here that Longstreth describes the nature of a sinking relationship.
The album is not just about the bad times though, “Up in Hudson” and “Little Bubble” characterize the point of a breakup where one idealizes the good times in a relationship. “Up in Hudson” tells the story of how they met and focuses on the tiny details that one romanticizes once the relationship is over. “Little Bubble” has a lo-fi funk vibe as Longstreth sings about the perfect world two people have when they are in love. Here, he points out the juxtaposition between the warm and idealistic world one is in while in a relationship, and the cold outside world of a breakup.
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At the end of the album Longstreth ultimately finds peace with his heartbreak. “I See You” maintains the melody with a Hammond organ and has a soulful guitar solo as Longstreth comes to terms with the breakup. “We won’t be afraid to grow” he sings, as he is optimistic about things getting better. This is the most fitting end to the album because it demonstrates that even through the anger, confusion, and nostalgia he is ultimately happy for the experience.
“Dirty Projectors” brings a new edge to the bands’ brand as Longstreth showcases his heartbreak with poise. He is prosperous in the end because he finds balance. Longstreth is angry, but not bitter. He is nostalgic, but also realistic. He eventually understands the purpose of his heartbreak and finds peace.
“Dirty Projectors” is out now via Domino