Sometimes when you’re reviewing something subjective, like music or art, you run up against this age-old debate between subjectivity and objectivity. That’s where I am with Dirty Projectors’ new, self-titled album. I think it might be really interesting, from an objective technical standpoint, but I know it bored me and made me feel weirdly twitchy.
Dirty Projectors is visceral and multi-layered, almost a city-scape of sound. It’s also drawn out and, at only nine songs, kind of long. It’s not that the songs are unfocused or lacking momentum, they’re just extremely dense. A lot of the aural experience is reliant on dissonant, jumpy tones that sound like (and probably are) created by speeding up, slowing down, and rewinding various tracks and recording the playback. It’s actually kind of reminiscent of a bluesy version of clipping., with the complex rhythms and dissonant rhymes and tempo shifts. That’s what makes it a short album that can take a long time to listen to – Dirty Projectors are using sounds that are designed to make a person feel uncomfortable, because uncomfortable is still a reaction, still an emotion.
Apparently, this self-titled album is an album about heartbreak, and anyone who’s had a bad break up can tell you that there are few things more viscerally uncomfortable that you just have to sit with than heartbreak. Dirty Projectors is that discomfort, thick and awkward and woven through with melodies that you love slowly becoming sounds that you hate. The first song, “Keep Your Name”, starts out with church bells ringing richly before they turn into a discordant wail. The album ends with “I See You”, which kicks off with a burst of angry static before moving into bizarre, 1920’s horror movie style organ dirge. In between, the album moves through the stages of emotion and internal drama of heartbreak. It works, thematically, but it might not be for everyone.
Dirty Projectors will probably play well with fans of David Longstreth’s experimentalism, or the jarring experimental brand of indie pop that his group belongs to. It’s perhaps hard listening if you’re like me, but it’s also worthwhile listening, and it’s an interesting album. I don’t love it, but I can’t bring myself to hate it either, because it is interesting and it supports its thesis statement well.
Review Score: 7.4 out of 10.
Dirty Projectors is released on February 24th..