Dirty Projectors' New Album Is A Magic Pop Elixir To Forget Your Troubles

Jul 31, 2018
Originally published on August 1, 2018 1:51 pm

After the breakup album comes the bounce back. Last time we heard Dirty Projectors back in 2017, David Longstreth was getting over a relationship and knee-deep in dark laments. Now, he's all about shaking off despair.

The new record, Lamp Lit Prose, is sunny and sometimes giddy. Its lit up with Michael Jackson-ish falsetto vocals and guitar riffs from West Africa. These new Dirty Projectors songs are fixated on pleasure and the loosening of inhibitions, but underneath the surface are glitchy, unsettling rhythms and spasms of guitar dissonance.

Longstreth says Lamp Lit Prose is the direct result of changes he made to his work routine. Rather than touring after the last record, he just kept on writing. The album tilts in the direction of R&B, stemming from Longstreth's recent collaboration with Kanye West and contribution to Solange Knowles' acclaimed A Seat at the Table. Longstreth says working with West and others offered him a deep-dive into looping and beat-making. Here, he combines tricky programmed beats with even trickier live polyrhythmic percussion.

This stylistic shift probably won't surprise longtime fans. Dirty Projectors came up in the hyperactive Brooklyn indie-rock world of the early 2000s, and evolved quickly. One album leaned toward progressive rock of the '70s, another maneuvered into pop with lavish vocal harmonies. This record cuts right to the chase. It's tight, disciplined music, with a shot of off-kilter.

At times the album feels like a collision of high-concept computer-production ideas. Yet for all the details, it's also a blast of energy — a magic pop elixir designed to help you forget whatever troubles you might be carrying around.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

If you need a break from bad news, an escape from whatever you need an escape from, our Music reviewer Tom Moon says put on the new album from "Dirty Projectors."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RIGHT NOW (FEAT. SYD)")

DIRTY PROJECTORS: (Singing) Now, right now, now, right now, now, right now...

CORNISH: This is from "Lamp Lit Prose," the eighth album from the rock band/art project led by guitarist and singer David Longstreth. It follows a series of personnel changes and upheavals. Here's more of the album and our review from Tom Moon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I FEEL ENERGY (FEAT. AMBER MARK)")

DIRTY PROJECTORS: (Singing) Are we fundamentally alone in the universe? What would it possibly mean if we found in each other something...

TOM MOON, BYLINE: After the breakup album comes the bounce back. The last time we heard from Dirty Projectors back in 2017, David Longstreth was getting over a relationship and knee-deep in dark laments. Now he's all about shaking off despair with a record that's sunny and sometimes giddy.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I FEEL ENERGY (FEAT. AMBER MARK)")

DIRTY PROJECTORS: (Singing) Something opening, a new consciousness beginning in the room when my eyes saw the design - I feel energy.

MOON: Lit up with Michael Jacksonish (ph) falsetto vocals and guitar riffs from West Africa, these new Dirty Projectors songs are fixated on pleasure and the loosening of inhibitions. But they're never exclusively that. Beneath the surface are glitchy, unsettling rhythms and spasms of guitar dissonance.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I FOUND IT IN U")

DIRTY PROJECTORS: (Singing) I found...

MOON: Longstreth says the album is the direct result of changes he made to his work routine. Rather than touring after the last record, he just kept on writing. He collaborated with Kanye West and contributed to Solange Knowles' acclaimed "A Seat At The Table." Those experiences tilted him in the direction of R&B.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BREAK-THRU")

DIRTY PROJECTORS: (Singing) I feel an affinity. Look at me, a deity. In all the ways, she's a break-through. Under the sun, there's nothing new, but she keeps it 100 in the shade. She's a break-through. It's cold out there. That's nothing new. But she keeps in 100 in the shade. She's a break-through.

MOON: This stylistic shift probably won't surprise longtime fans. Dirty Projectors came up in the hyperactive Brooklyn indie rock world of the early 2000s and evolved quickly. One album leaned toward progressive rock of the 1970s. Another maneuvered into pop with lavish vocal harmonies. This record cuts right to the chase. Its tight, disciplined music with a shot of off-kilter.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THAT'S A LIFESTYLE")

DIRTY PROJECTORS: (Singing) We shout out loud - megaphone - kind of zoned but listening in. We browse our own episodes. That's a, that's a, that's a - 'cause a monster eats its young till they're gone, gone, gone. And the rules are there to hurt, and that's the way it's done.

MOON: Longstreth says working with West and others offered him a deep dive into looping and beat making. Here, he combines tricky program beats with even trickier live polyrhythmic percussion.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THAT'S A LIFESTYLE")

DIRTY PROJECTORS: (Singing) That's a, that's a, that's a...

MOON: For all the details, the album is just a blast of energy, a magic pop elixir designed to help you forget whatever troubles you might be carrying around.

CORNISH: The latest from Dirty Projectors is "Lamp Lit Prose." Our reviewer is Tom Moon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BREAK-THRU")

DIRTY PROJECTORS: (Singing) I feel an affinity. Look at me, a deity. In all her ways... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.