By Justin Cudahy, Staff Writer
Key Tracks: “Keep Your Name”, “Little Bubble”, “Cool Your Heart”
Dirty Projectors have played a large role in the indie-rock scene for 15 years now. The band has had numerous lineup changes over the years, with at least 20 members coming and going throughout, with frontman David Longstreth being the center of it all. Seven studio albums later, listeners are greeted with Dirty Projectors, the self-titled album serving as an ode to breakups. In this case, it delves into the breakup not just with the band, but also Longstreth’s break up with former member Amber Coffman a few years prior to the album’s release.
Dirty Projectors is a bit clichéd regarding the themes and concepts that make up the album. There are plenty of similar albums out there, such as Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago and Adele’s 21, and this one is no different. In this case, the album plays closer attention to Longstreth’s breakup with longtime partner and band member Coffman, detailing the beginning of their relationship (“Up In Hudson”) all the way toward the end (“Little Bubble”, “Winner Take Nothing”). Listeners are only given a one-sided look into the whole thing, with Longstreth portraying himself as the innocent bystander and Coffman as some sort of shallow and materialistic person. Lyrics such as “I don’t know why you abandoned me, you were my soul and my partner” and “Now I’m shining like tears in the rain and you’re shining like fifteen of fame, babe” are examples of some of the not-so-subtle jabs made throughout that are supposed to make listeners sympathize with the singer.
Longstreth is a one man show here, performing vocals, piano, guitar, synth and much more. Sticking to its roots in the experimental-rock genre, the band mixes things up with its sound, incorporating a wide array of instrumentation, from organs and synths to entire string and jazz arrangements. This helps give each song its own unique sound and style, whether it’s a slow reggae beat, latin or electronica which all come together to form the solid and well diversified nine track LP. Some of the tracks do, however, seem to drag at times with the inclusion of 2-3 minute segments of instrumentals that quickly wear out. “Up In Hudson” is a great track that could have easily been condensed into four minutes instead of seven and a half minutes. This doesn’t occur too often and doesn’t affect the album too badly, but it’s noticeable. Sticking to the experimental genre, the sound mixing in this album is all over the place, and that’s meant in a good way. “Little Bubble” is a great track mostly due to the constant panning of audio between the left and right speakers and sudden breakdowns that will keep listeners interested throughout making it all the more enjoyable
As far as “breakup” albums go, Dirty Projectors doesn’t bring much to the table. Instead, it finds success in its style and creativity thanks to David Longstreth. The experimental genre is often either a hit or miss for many bands and artists, but it’s clear here that Longstreth knows exactly what he’s doing, and it’s certainly paid off.