by Erin Beattie
It’s been five years since we last heard from him, but he’s back.
David Longstreth, the singer and songwriter behind Dirty Projectors confronts the recovery process in response to his former partner and bandmate, Amber Coffman in his latest self-titled release, Dirty Projectors.
An incredible, cathartic, nine-song set. In fact, I’ll be so bold to say it is the first good release of 2017.
This album travels through Longstreth’s post-breakup stage through tears, anger, understanding, and reconciliation both personally and musically.
Love is a transformative experience—one that makes you see things in a different light. It can be an experience that changes and shapes the way you view the world. Consequently, the disintegration of love (and in this case, a musical partnership) can result in disillusionment with the world around you. Through this process it is imperative to reconcile the pieces of life that have been touched by this person in order to find purpose again.
We can hear this transformation in Dirty Projectors.
This album is not the same Dirty Projectors I listened to over the past decade. Longstreth’s guitar playing is absent, but his voice is brought into light. It is both unusual and candid with prominent vocals set over glitchy tunes and R&B samples. This creates a tumultuous journey, each pattern and rhythm lending itself to mimic the vulnerable lyrics.
In many ways Longstreth makes conflicting musical pieces work together in ways that they really shouldn’t. It’s R&B meet indie rock meets dubstep meets jazz. It’s nikki nack meets 808s & Heartbreak meets Lemonade meets Modern Vampires of the City. It’s everything you need it to be, and yet nothing like anything you've heard before.
So while the musicianship behind this release is commendable, diverse and exciting, the thematic considerations are what have impacted me most upon listening.
Longstreth is a gifted story teller and we get an essence of the entirety of his relationship with Coffman. But this isn't just your average breakup album. From the label’s press release we learn that what Longstreth has created is an elegy to the Obama years, indie rock, and then his relationship.
The opening song, “Keep Your Name” introduces the differences that tore apart the relationship. The track is full of struggle, between bitterness and understanding the differences the couple faced (both relationally and musically).
He then moves back into time through “Up in Hudson”, “Work Together”, and “Little Bubble”. As I listen to these tracks I feel Longstreth walking through New York City alone, realizing all the different ways this relationship and the past 8 years have impacted his life: the good and the bad. He can’t escape the impact. That is why we feel more than just heartache over the relationship—we feel the heartache over the changing times.
And so reconciliation takes place. A new understanding is realized, where you can remember, respect, and love someone despite a breakup.
This is reflected in the last track “I See You”, where Longstreth concludes with these lyrics:
“And we could just be in kindness and peace now seeing that the love(we made) is the art.”
I would suggest that everyone listen to Dirty Projectors because it is a smorgasbord of different sounds, themes, and realizations that will speak to you in many different ways.
The more I listen, the more obsessed I become. (And I think you will too)