Ah, that old adage: every story has two sides. Except in the music world we don’t always get to hear both. Who’s the fucker that hurt Adele? Is there really even a Becky with the good hair? But in the case of Dirty Projectors‘ Dave Longstreth and Amber Coffman, it’s been all too public and – this year – musical too.
If theirs was a thoroughly modern romance, its decline seems to be the same. City Of No Reply already conjures that painful millennial malaise of being left on ‘read’. Given that most of her solo debut was co-written and her produced by her former beau, it’s a little harder to discern where fiction is laced with a portent of bitter truth.
Sometimes it’s more obvious, sometimes it isn’t. All To Myself pretty much communicates the ethos it displays on the tin, but there’s the more subtle spilling of tea on No Coffee (one of the best songs of the year, by the by), where Coffman eschews a lot of that Projectors trickery to surround herself with the warmth of brass and modern soul. If Longstreth went for tortured angst, Coffman is going for a breezy fuck-off.
But even as Coffman is singing about being solo, her ex’s influence creeps up to her in different ways. The production is quintessentially his, all wobbly synths and layered vocals that wouldn’t have been out of place on his own album. Even as she’s trying to escape his shadow she feels oftentimes eclipsed under it, though it’s still a brilliantly emasculating move to hear her deliver the line “I hear you singing with a vengeance like a coyote at the moon” on Dark Night.
Despite that, it still feels like the Amber Coffman show. While Longstreth’s record feels like it missed her a little bit, City of No Reply doesn’t feel his vocal absence at all (even though it whispers on Brand New), instead giving the spotlight to someone richly deserving it. Just like the sleeve implies, Coffman is finally emerging out of the shadow to become her own full-fledged artist; something tells us that, with or without her former partner, she’ll be absolutely fine.