Dirty Projectors - Album Review
For those unfamiliar with the Dirty Projectors, it's a band that has only had one constant throughout their seven album career - David Longstreth. Over 20 different members have circled in and out, including the likes of Amber Coffman (who we'll discuss later), Ezra Koenig, and Wes Miles (Ra Ra Riot). The self-titled album is listed under the genre of 'Alternative', the cover-all answer for when an album features no clear genre-binding themes. Any 808s & Heartbreak fan will pick up immediately on a familiarity throughout - from the prominent use of auto tune, the drums, and moments of chaos and anger when David is mentioning his own heartbreaks.
This is exactly how we find David leading the album off. The first 4 songs all revolve a theme of anger and pain. The first song, 'Keep Your Name', puts us right into the middle of his failing relationship with former band member, Amber Coffman. Later on when asked about the meaning of this song, David said; "It's when you're torn apart by small differences and a void opens where a shared perspective splinters into two or 2,000 irreconcilable points of view, and it becomes clear that the individual parts are less than the whole." The next track, 'Death Spiral', is comparing the end of his relationship, vividly, to that of a plane crash. It is one of the moments when we hear a chaotic, fierce beat as he is describing his pain, reminiscent of 808s.
If the first 4 songs were all about David expressing his anger, the next couple show him taking a step back and reflecting on different times throughout the relationship. 'Little Bubble' is one of these. David brings us back to the best time in the relationship, days that many out there would say they are familiar with experiencing personally. That being in your own "little bubble", where nothing can penetrate the time you are together with someone you love. He guides you from the best of times, to how things spiraled out of control. David sings at the end; "dreams are dumb and meaningless...I want to sleep with no dreams / I want to be dead." A sad, depressing song, but also brilliant.
Given how the album starts, in gloom and despair, you might not predict that there would be any moment of joy, or even forgiveness. This moment came in the finale, 'I See You'. Production-wise it draws from some reggae roots, and he finally seems to move on from the damage Amber has caused him. He sings, "what held us together / is what tears us apart / so i'll let go of the tether." As the song progresses, we also see him remembering the relationship in a positive light; "what we gave, we will always retain / I remember and I will remain / Proud and glad you were in my life."
David Longstreth has gone through a lot that is put out there in this album. We see him reflecting on the pain of his parting of ways, and then a slow but gradual shift in mental state to where we finally see him moving on in the last song. It's a story, and in this instance, the supporting cast was his production. It's difficult to compare to because it is so experimental. Seeing it in the same conversation as 808s is never a bad thing though. It is a fantastic album, and deserves your 52 minutes.