Tuesday, June 23, 2009
There seems (to me) to be a theme to this summer's big releases. Phoenix, Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective - what has set these bands apart has been fastidious production, a convergence of sonic elements, and beautiful, dreamy vocals. Dirty Projectors is no different. With claps and drum kicks running into Zeppelin-esque raw guitar, the intensely simplified instrumentation forces the ear to wandering and lofty vocals on the first track. That sets the tone for the album - the time signatures and pacing jump radically and quickly within and between songs, but the voices carry you through. To say it's all about vocals though is a red herring, because while the most obvious and intense elements are the voices, the music is so unbelievably good, all of sudden you realize that you've been serenaded, seduced into the complexities of the album and the music and its flow takes over your interest. Instrumentation gets looser and edgier, occasionally overpowering, but mostly just sublimely simple and good (I wish I had a better word than "good," but sometimes, that's the highest praise): there are elements of punk, reggae, (parts of it remind me a lot of Ted Leo), rock and some more winsome uses of pop and folk.
This album is a thorough composition - no doubt that Dave Longstreth took a great deal from collaborations with David Byrne and Bjork - yet despite the intricacy and crafted nature of the music, it moves freely and manages to avoid feeling heavy or overwrought (taking as much from Byrne as Bjork in that regard). There are moments when you feel like you slipped into a completely different album (Pink Floyd meets Joanna Newsom say, then on to Modest Mouse having its way with the Cocteau Twins), as it goes from male to female vocals, from keyboards and Fenders, to acoustic plucking and violins - but the progression is seamless. There are moments when you have no idea why these things sound so good, because by all logic such strange components, dissonant ideas and odd pacing ought to be disastrous. But they aren't - there are moments of true beauty and true rock. It's utterly mind boggling that this album is so fine, so perfect and so tailored, yet so completely and effortlessly enjoyable, you can just float with it. I'm gonna go ahead and say, this wins for me...everyone else can pack up and go home.