I remember sitting on a stolen park bench in my college apartment playing NBA 2K13. A pink triangle of tongue was probing outward from the corner of my mouth, and hangover sweats dampened my clammy forehead while I tried to make Eric Gordon’s easily packed jumper work.
But even more vividly, I recall my concentration was broken when I heard a familiar World Music-tinged bursts of strings and drums that all but demand body rolls. “Dirty Projectors are on this game?” a delighted exclamation.
That was the moment, I had to explain to my friend and roommate who The Dirty Projectors were, but more importantly it should’ve been the first inkling the new, self-titled album from Dave Longstreth would sound the way it sounds.
Longstreth writing for Solange and Rihanna as well as collaborating with Kanye West should’ve been giveaways too because Dirty Projectors shares about as much musical DNA with “Runaway” as it does with “About to Die”.
There is plenty of woozy vocoder, confessional themes, rapping and Mr. West even gets a shout out on the absolutely fantastic and introspective “Up in Hudson”.
That standout track also addresses one of the album’s other overwhelming influences–Longstreth’s breakup with longtime girlfriend and stellar guitarist Amber Coffman.
Every song on the album either reminisces about their time together, laments their separation, dwells on loneliness or in the case of “Keep Your Name” fires off some parting shots.
Aside from the thematic fuel, Coffman’s absence could explain the hard turn for the electronic since 2012’s Swing Lo Magellan.
Staccato guitar bursts have decidedly been removed from the album’s vocabulary. Instead warbles, static and all manner of electric bleeps and bloops have joined the piano, eventful percussion and gift for marrying experimentation with undeniable melody that has always been The Dirty Projectors’ calling card.
And the album sounds absolutely fantastic. It’s almost always a sonic lasagna of disparate parts. On any given song you might hear electronic effects, autotune, piano, drum loops, horns, violins or even organ, but it’s never muddled, and aside from a few indulgent moments of faux static, it never seems busy for the sake of being busy.
It is a wonderful headpones album.
However it was that Longstreth arrived at the new album’s sound, the result is the same: a deeply engaging album that manages to double-down on both pop influence and weirdness.
I sincerely hope “Cool Your Heart”, which includes a fantastic feature from D∆WN, a frantic drum bridge and layer after layer of brass instruments, soundtracks a future basketball video game.