Artist: Dirty Projectors
Label: Domino Records
Due Out: June 9th
For anyone that's been paying attention to this blog this week, or any blog for the past two months, you're probably well aware of Dirty Projectors' Bitte Orca. From the unfortunate leak of the album two months ago, to NPR's stream that started earlier this week, anybody who has an interest in this band has probably heard the new album, and has an opinion on it. Still, allow me to provide another one for you, as the praise will be heaped on in a similar fashion to other blogs. I won't go as far as Stereogum did, using over-the-top descriptions such as "stunning" (words like that are reserved for the greatest albums of all-time), but I will say that this collection of songs is grade-A indie rock. It's engaging, fun and intriguing- a real treat for music fans across the board.
"Cannibal Resource" starts us off with a poppy and energetic ode to over-consumption, among other things. Like many of the tracks on the album, there's plenty going on here- between Dave Longstreth's vocal stylings, the jumpy and floating guitar part, and the soaring background vocals, it's hard to take it all in in one sitting. "Temecula" doesn't give much of a break from the large collection of sounds either. Once again, the vocals in the background and foreground offset each other perfectly, and provide some semblance of order above the musical freewheeling that's occurring. Don't bother searching for a particular melody or pattern in the instrumentation here, because there isn't one. The almost freeform approach to the music is one of the album's finer aspects- things can literally be bouncing off the walls, yet for some reason, still seem organized. "The Bride" then provides our first slower section, as the band keeps it subdued, save a few spurts near the end.
If you simply heard "Stillness is the Move" by itself, you'd probably mistake it for either an electronica b-side or a pop experiment. The mechanically shifting track is definitely pop-oriented, but of course, in the best way possible. The sound reminds me of a mix of video game music and Mariah Carey- an amazing aesthetic when you think about it- and it somehow works here to great success. Next, "Two Doves" goes all classical on us, utilizing a simple string arrangement and just one voice, for a nice and soothing ballad sure to be one of the year's favorite slow jams. "Useful Chamber" starts similarly to the previous track, slow, quiet and methodical, easing you into the change in scenery. While listening though, you're wary of the reserved nature. It's obvious while hearing the flowing falsetto vocals and straightforward acoustic melody that something's being held back, and you're right. The breaking point is around the 2:30 mark, where the sound just explodes. The song's second half is also an interesting case, as it jumps from a soothing and harmony-laden doo-wop number, to a over-the-top solo, in mere moments.
"No Intention" is for lack of a more appropriate term, relaxing. Seemingly exhausted from the previous song, it's reserved, but still employs a good amount of sound. It also reminds me a bit of Passion Pit's new record, but just in portions. "Remade Energy" seems revitalized in comparison, as the tropical-esque background and allusion to a tribal chant re-establishes the energy seen earlier, before changing into a free and boundary-less jazz number. Finally, regrettably, we reach the album's end with "Fluorescent Half-Dome". Longstreth comes in low here, as he sort of seems aware of, and down on, the fact its the end. Amidst the vocal refrain though, keep an eye on the building string part in the backdrop. By the halfway mark, they take full control and provide for one fitting and gorgeous-sounding finish that is about as appropriate as one could hope for.
It's a lot to take in, I know. The best work of the band's career, Bitte Orca does a great job of using their instrumental capabilities to the fullest. The possibilities on this one are nearly endless, as the band scoffed at normal song conventions, and rather than just record another indie rock album, tried to embrace something without walls. Nothing's boxed in, and the freeform approach worked. I won't say it's never been done before, because that's an out-and-out lie, but that doesn't mean I can't congratulate them for successful execution of an interesting and entertaining record. For those who may have missed it earlier in the week, check out the stream of the album over at NPR. Similarities may include High Places, the aforementioned Passion Pit and Deerhunter.
Best Track: "Stillness is the Move" (not available, but check out "Cannibal Resource")