I must confess that when it comes to the Dirty Projectors, I’m a bit of a noob. For me, they’ve always seemed like an elite club – one made up of the smartest kids with the loftiest ambitions.
The more I learned about them, the more precocious and inscrutable they seemed. Dave Longstreth was like a Wes Anderson character come to life, making whimsical, highly regarded music, though to me it seemed academic and difficult to connect with emotionally.
I was aware of the Björk collaboration, that Jay-Z was a fan, of comparisons to David Byrne, their reimagined Black Flag covers album, the Don Henley concept album (seriously), their Yale pedigree, their difficult break up album…which is all to say that I’d heard quite a bit about the Dirty Projectors, without really hearing them at all.
Even with these preconceptions, Lamp Lit Prose, Dirty Projectors’ ninth studio album, is a fun listen. Taken on its own, without the baggage and knowledge of the band’s history, LLP is just a playful set of tunes fusing their trademark soaring and diving vocals, instrumental left turns, tuneful indie rock and the bouncing pulse of modern R&B.
“You’re the One” features Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold and former Vampire Weekender Rostam, forming a trio of some of the 21st century’s finest offbeat vocalists. “I Feel Energy” has a searing Latin horn groove and a vocal hook Michael Jackson would be proud of. “Break Thru” rides a funky groove punctuated with some groovy African guitar riffs.
Part of the fun of listening to this band is the discovery and surprise of where their songs will take you. A Dirty Projectors song doesn’t follow a straight line from point A to point B, but takes you on a detour each time, giving each listen a fresh feel.
While I had thought of Dirty Projectors as formal and academic, they’ve proved otherwise on Lamp Lit Prose, offering up a set of songs that manages to be groovy, but still with more twists and surprises in 37 minutes than most bands produce in a lifetime.