Review Summary: Laughing in flowers of sun
Last year, Dirty Projectors
saw the “band” in shambles. Beautiful experimental shambles, sure, but there’s no mistaking that frontman Dave Longstreth was reeling. What was a five piece outfit as recently as Swing Lo Magellan
had been widdled down to a solo act after bandmate and longtime girlfriend Amber Coffman departed on the heels of a very messy, very public breakup. Longstreth, who began the project on his own while adding members gradually, saw things come full circle and was forced back to the drawing board. In a way, a self-titled album has never made more sense; Longstreth is
Dirty Projectors. He’s the heart and soul of the project, the anchor that keeps churning out music through thick and thin. That “my side of the story” album was predictably spiteful and venomous, even if the aching strings and wailing falsetto made it hard not to feel for the guy. More interesting than the vindictive, depressive lyrics was the incorporation of various R&B and hip-hop influences; a byproduct of counsel-seeking with the likes of Kanye and Solange. It was a crossover pop album through and through, while retaining the classic sense of experimentation that has coursed through Dirty Projector’s veins since its inception. All told, it made for a bold if slightly disorienting reintroduction to Longstreth’s music.
Whereas Dirty Projectors
was fashioned for the frostbitten air of February, Lamp Lit Prose
frolics in July’s warmth. It’s the sun to its moon; the thaw after the freeze. The vibrant acoustic guitars again flourish, with ‘Right Now’ and ‘That’s a Lifestyle’ weaving sweet, burgeoning melodies ripe for the plucking. Longstreth makes no effort to conceal the tonal updraft, either – the penultimate ‘You’re The One’, featuring Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold, is merely a snapshot of Lamp Lit Prose
’s overwhelming exuberance in which Longstreth seems to be spellbound by love’s honeymoon phase: “Till the earth absorbs us, laughing in flowers of sun / I choose to be yours because you're the one.”
Everything here glows with a similar optimism, either bounding from a
with a skip and a hop (the slick, groovy ‘Break-Thru’), or casually strolling up the shoreline, taking in all of life’s silver linings (‘Blue Bird’). Basically, it’s this group’s Pet Sounds
As with most Dirty Projectors albums, Lamp Lit Prose
’s experimentation borders on sensory overload. Take in the happy summer vibes here, and it’s even more over-the-top – a prospect that could be a turn-off for anyone who found the previous outing to be hectic. Longstreth still overindulges that high falsetto usage, too – something he struggles to get away with this time without the lower register of a ‘Keep Your Name’ to strike balance and contrast. Still, for those who don’t mind their music odd and eclectic to a nearly ridiculous extent, Lamp Lit Prose
offers an enormous spectrum of sound to satisfy that craving. ‘I Feel Energy’ is somewhere between a Justin Timberlake summer radio jam and a trumpet-filled 1970s Chicago greatest hit. ‘Zombie Conqueror’ transitions manically between pristine acoustic picking and a menacing electric guitar/kick drum interchange – oh, and not to mention a guest vocal spot from Empress Of. ‘You’re The One’ mellows the tempo by utilizing little more than an acoustic guitar, reciting simple but heartwarming notions like “with you, I feel it more”
. Then, almost as if to follow suit, the closing ‘(I Wanna) Feel It All)’ is also more minimal – for Dirty Projectors, that is – flowing gracefully on a river of gentle pianos, pan flutes, and a spacey, synthed-out undercurrent. There’s a ton to absorb here, and nearly all of it is breathtaking on its own. The only problem comes when you string them all together, where each track’s individual colors and flavors can coalesce into something a tad overstimulating.
Lamp Lit Prose
marks the shortest turnaround between records for Dirty Projectors. Perhaps inspiration struck hard and fast, what with Longstreth apparently on cloud nine and in love again. It’s easily the project’s most happy-go-lucky affair, a trait that results in some mildly cheesy lyrics (clichés like “change is the only constant”
; there’s also an awkward line about Julian Casablancas that Longstreth fumbles with) , but at the end of the day it’s mostly just irresistible to indulge. It’s like arriving on the beautiful shores of Aruba after spending a year snowbound in Ontario. It may not be as emotionally significant as Dirty Projectors
or as instrumentally adept as Swing Lo Magellan
, but it’s sure nice to hear Dave Longstreth enjoying himself again. Lamp Lit Prose
is an exercise in exactly that: letting loose, writing from the heart, and rediscovering the things in life that make you happy. So lower the windows, crank that volume, and sing along at the top of your lungs.