A look to the future.
Released: 24th February 2017
Love is fucking hard. Dave Longstreth, Dirty Projectors’ founding and sole member, understands this better than most.
“I don’t know why you abandoned me / You were my soul and my partner,” Longstreth laments in the record’s opening seconds. The joyous original soundtrack for La La Land, this is not.
A nasty break-up with former partner and fellow Projector, Amber Coffman, has been rumoured (but unconfirmed) ever since ‘Keep Your Name’, a nuclear bomb of a break-up song, dropped in September 2016. What follows is an album, Dirty Projectors’ eighth, of invention, reflection, gorgeous instrumentation and surprises.
Almost immediately, you’re introduced to the record’s revelation: Longstreth’s voice. It’s chopped up. Its pitch is stretched high and low. Its pace is at times super-charged, at times flung into slow-motion. It’s almost always isolated. Apart from a surprise Solange feature – yes, that Solange – on ‘Cool Your Heart’, which Dave and Solange wrote together between sessions for Solange’s magnificent ‘A Seat At The Table’, Longstreth’s anguish and point of view (“I built my life around your love,” he sings on ‘Winner Take Nothing’) dominate the record.
As the album moves forward, each of its nine tracks side-step you. It’s impossible to know what’s coming next. Clicks, string quartets, electronic glitches, brass arrangements and some really fucking wacky drum patterns all rub shoulders. Somehow, Longstreth makes it work. The highlight is ‘Little Bubble’, a pretty, silky smooth mid-album treat that stands out against tracks like ‘Ascent Through Clouds’ for its relative simplicity. It finds strength there.
In the album opener, ‘Keep Your Name’, Longstreth fires one of the most scathing lines an artist could give to a fellow artist in Coffman’s direction: “What I want from art is truth / what you want is fame.” By the end of the record, this mindset has given way. The psychiatrist Irvin D Yalom once advised that one must “give up all hope of a better past” to enjoy a better present and future. By the end of ‘Dirty Projectors’, it seems that Dave Longstreth has taken this advice on board. His tone has shifted. Gone are the scathing put-downs. In their place, forgiveness. Reconciliation. A look to the future. Lucas Fothergill