“I don’t know why you abandoned me,” sings a distorted Dave Longstreth on the new self-titled Dirty Projectors album. Needless to say, someone’s had their heart broken and the result, as it happens, is a wrenching career-best.
But if that opening line sounds like it’s going to be an exercise in self-pity, Longstreth is way more astute to let that become a theme. “We don’t see eye to eye” say the chipmunk-screech backing vocals, before the midpoint gives way to a confessional that very much acknowledges his own faults in the breakdown of a relationship.
And then he starts hitting big. “Our love is in a spiral” is the refrain peppering the tremendous Death Spiral, a twisting and turning journey of frustration that’s spiked with deep brass and squelching guitar. And once again, Longstreth somehow cobbles together all sorts of sounds, like an indie equivalent of freeform jazz that doesn’t seem to fit any structure and yet works exactly to his purpose.
Even as he’s attempting to be emotionally bare, however, Longstreth is still quite a bloke about it. His confessions are covered with the camouflage of instrumentation, little flourishes that mask the depth of his sorrow or nostalgia. Up In Hudson is a great example of the latter, before album highlight Work Together zips along like an absolute hyperactive jackrabbit.
Through it all, that trademark Projectors sound remains. The old-world strings sit comfortably with contemporary electronica, at their romantic best on Little Bubble. And as an auteur, Longstreth once again proves his sound is way ahead of its time, sitting at this curious intersection of being accessible and yet like nothing you’ve ever heard before. This is the Dirty Projectors way of doing heartbreak, and it certainly is as unique as you’d expect.