For years, Dirty Projectors have been making innovative, glitchy, experimental art-pop. With their eighth studio album—produced by frontman David Longstreth—they prove they have no shortage of ideas or creative ways of executing them, though some wind up working better than others.
A skittery beat, blasts of brass, and Longstreth’s heavily digi-altered voice anchor the opening of the album—an interesting, cerebral mixture called “Right Now.” The result is white-guy, alt-R&B that sounds like, well, a white guy that went to Yale trying to making alt-R&B. Not unpleasant, especially with the contributions of The Internet member Syd, but a step or two off. With Dirty Projectors, it’s this step or two off that keeps things interesting, that rubs people the wrong way, or makes them rabid fans. The experimentation never superseding the inherently pop melodies that Longstreth favors. Take “Break Thru,” an unintuitive blend of harmonica, hip-hop, and love song lyrics—the contrast between the aggressive electronic groans that spike each verse sometimes too at odds with Longstreth’s watery vocals for comfort. Still, the hook is going to get stuck in your head.
“Zombie Conqueror” defies categorization, impressively putting three songs into one, jerking back and forth from measure to measure. It starts out sounding like some trad. classical guitar workout, then goes to a Faces, Ronnie Wood-style slide guitar bit, before heading into the grungey, crunchy, angsty anthem-chorus. It’s exhausting, but somehow it works—perhaps Longstreth’s truest talent. “What Is The Time” is another winner, the best of the alt-R&B offerings. The falsetto harmonies and hooky, sticky-sweet chorus foiled beautifully by the more jittery beat.
Not every track is a winner. “That’s A Lifestyle” starts out sounding promisingly like futuristic Paul Simon before the ridiculous and grating way Longstreth chokes out “That’s a-That’s a-That’s a-LifeSTY!” forces you to skip to the next song. “Bluebird” has a “Groovin” style sentiment, but drones on, and “I Found It In You” is enjoyable until you realize the way Longstreth’s is always a little behind delivering the wordy verses starts driving you crazy. “(I Wanna) Feel It All” closes out the album on a jazzy, moody note—the brush beat and gravelly horns giving an appealingly cinematic effect. It’s very film score and feels like a golden-era melodrama—one that aged well—but for some reason, I lost all interest once Longstreth’s voice came in.
Daring, interesting, and never simple, kudos must be given for thinking outside of the box. Though not always successful, Lamp Lit Prose is rarely dull, turning corners and switching gears when you least expect it—even within the same song. Channeling earlier releases, longtime fans will be pleased, while newbies will eat up the poppier offerings and Longstreth’s tastier melodies.