Dirty Projectors see in a new light

Dirty Projectors is an American indie rock band from Brooklyn, New York, fronted by David Longstreth (right).
Dirty Projectors is an American indie rock band from Brooklyn, New York, fronted by David Longstreth (right). PHOTO: DOMINO

The last time the world heard of David Longstreth, the mastermind behind Brooklyn indie-rock collective Dirty Projectors, he was licking wounds from an acrimonious split from former band member Amber Coffman early last year.

He had released a revenge/recovery record, the self-titled seventh album Dirty Projectors, where he lashed out and wallowed in self-pity: "What I want from art is truth, what you want is fame."

Barely 17 months later, a different creature arrives. Lamp Lit Prose, as the album title suggests, is more ebullient. It is "really about feeling hope again, finding the things that give us hope, that make us feel optimistic and joyful", Longstreth said in an interview.

The sun peers over the horizon and he wonders what to do next. The music, as always, is his guiding light.

The opening track Right Now begins softly. A guitar strums and drums thump tentatively. It sounds almost like a country twang ballad. Syd, singer from indie hip-hop/soul group The Internet, chimes in as Longstreth confesses over trumpet toots: "I don't know how I'm going to be a better man/I don't know how I'm going to reach the promised land." Against a world that's turned gloomier - "the sky has darkened/Earth turned to hell" - he sounds defiant and emboldened.

A new love has set his heart aflutter. Break-Thru epitomises the X-factor which sets Dirty Projectors apart - an enviable way with melody and words that baffles naysayers and sends fans into a tizzy. "She is so dreamy/Like she's got features on Fellini/Deadpan, unimpressed/Archimedes Palimpsest/Just hanging out at Julian Casablancas'" is his glorious summation of this paramour - so perfectly arty-wordy, it's a hoot.

That's A Lifestyle is a one-size-fits-all heart-thumper, calling out everything wrong with modern society - from war-mongering to environmental pollution and materialism to elite politicking. He unleashes a string of questions: "Who will stop wasting the lives of the brave/Based on a lie?/Who will stop wasting the forest and seas?/… Who will not place himself higher than we/For a senator's prize?" His message rings clear over rollicking riffs and pitter-pattering percussion.

  • ART ROCK

  • LAMP LIT PROSE

    Dirty Projectors

    Domino

    4 stars

Compared with the lonelier, stripped-down predecessor, this record revels in communion. A stellar supporting cast joins this party. Rising R&B star Amber Mark lends sass in I Feel Energy, a funk zinger channelling the magic of Michael Jackson and Prince; while Empress Of's Lorely Rodriguez takes arms on the grunge anthem Zombie Conqueror.

At the end of the day, Longstreth believes people have the power and friends need to stick together. In You're The One, he is accompanied by Rostam and Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold. They harmonise over acoustic strums like the three tenors of indie rock: "Oh, high thanks I owe you, excellent lover and beautiful friends/Through all the memories I have been/Hoping for you to come make my world new again."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2018, with the headline 'Dirty Projectors see in a new light'. Print Edition | Subscribe