Over three full lengths, an EP, and five different live bands in four years, David Longstreth has created in Dirty Projectors a body of music of original and variegated beauty. The breadth of his talents as a songwriter, arranger, bandleader and singer call to mind Prince, Joni Mitchell, and Bjork. His constantly evolving sound — both live and on record — the sheer intensity of the music, and the originality of his voice set him apart. Among modern music makers, he is a maverick: a loner and a rebel. From beginning to end, Dirty Projectors' new offering, Rise Above, is a reimagining of Black's Flag seminal 1981 record Damaged. It is not a covers record. Longstreth attempted to rewrite his favorite adolescent album word for word, from memory. A concept so lofty might just be hot wind if Rise Above weren't such a hell of a record on its own terms. It resounds with a kind of elegant simplicity: beautiful interlocking guitar parts, gorgeous three-part vocal harmonies, and some great songwriting. Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear manned the knobs, giving Rise Above the same rich sound that he brought to his own band’s acclaimed album Yellow House. Longstreth used the same musicians that appeared on the US tour on which he debuted these songs, and Rise Above captures the inventiveness and raw power of Dirty Projectors' live arrangements at long last.
The Getty Address is an epic glitch-opera about a mythical character namedDon Henley. Using a women's choir, sub-woofing sin waves, clipshod beats,a windorchestra, and detuned guitars, The Getty Address guides the listenerthrough a psychodramatic love story, meditating on the ideas of thewilderness inside us all and the meaning of America once the 'ManifestDestiny' imperative has expired completely. The Getty Address is assubtle and flinty a piece of protest music as "A Hard Rain's A-GonnaFall"?but in the end it is a love story.
Slaves' Graves and Ballads presents classical and pop music's bodies-entwined, souls-commingled wedding, with extended families abiding. Their child doesn't have one white eye and one Asian one; rather, he sees differently. The lyrics further develop Longstreth's shrubs-at-the-edge-of-the-lot imagery from last year's debut The Glad Fact, marking how the landscaping in large parking lots makes us feel different about ourselves. Tricked-out Hondas, subwoofers, sunsets, woodchips, chiropractors: all these pieces of the American strip coalesce in a vivid meditation on the technology that domesticates and the instinct that resists domestication. What Slaves' Graves explores in a collective way, the Ballads explore in a personal, individual way. Here, the MO is personal heartbreak and romantic yearning. Uniting both is the feeling that what's most true is hard to see because it is unbearably simple. In this way, Slaves' Graves and Ballads belong to each other.
The Dirty Projectors? debut album, The Glad Fact, dwells in the sorts ofemotional ambiguities and contradictions that have always tortured thesensitive ones. Each song offers a new melody that seems to have been sentfrom some erratic and beautiful netherworld. The music is many things atonce: sophisticated and heartfelt, tender and aggressive, pleasing andmiserly in its refusal to please. Longstreth's songs possess a will tosurprise and deceive that constantly defies our expectation of musical --and emotional -- resolution. The songs' brokenness is their resolution,and their most beautiful part.