Hype can be as equally destructive and unhelpful as it can be beneficial. For Dirty Projectors, that hype has been building and has finally reached a boiling point with the release of their newest album, Bitte Orca. Like other albums that were preceded by rapturous attention, Dave Longstreth and Co. seemed to deliver on almost every promise with fashionable strength.
What’s interesting about hype is how misguided and strangely surreal it truly feels. Maybe it’s just me, but 2009 seems like the banner year for a lot of great artists and bands -who’ve been really great for a while now- to finally earn deserved consideration (see: Grizzly Bear, St. Vincent, Animal Collective.) But it seems that with people being hard to please, it takes a solid album or two before someone finally catches on (see: The National, Spoon, Wilco, etc.) Like all of the aforementioned bands and artists, Dirty Projectors’ previous album, Rise Above, is every bit as good as their latest, Bitte Orca, and examined from a different view, is possibly superior.
Right out of the gate, “Cannibal Resource” is a throaty, meticulously driven jam. Outfitted with hand-claps along with Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian’s sweetly child-like singing, it’s a welcoming joy. But everything hits home with “Temecula Sunrise”‘s off-kilter exuberance, and paired with Longstreth’s painstakingly complicated guitar playing, it makes for one gripping experience. Teetering between the known and unknown, the guitar buzzes like something out of a Japanese rock show before it rips into a heady piece of soulful jibe. Before you know it, everyone’s singing together: the girls in fine form-their breathy releases and high falsettos in full support-and Longstreth’s David Byrne-esque delivery combine for one awesome sunrise, for sure.
There’s a distinct lack of drive that permeates the songs on many encounters. Whether it’s the lazy opening of “No Intention,” that happens to lag for most of the song or the way “The Bride” sounds entirely unfinished, they make for some of the more obvious missteps. Small, almost dismissible; they are practically forgotten by the end of the album because of how flatteringly majestic the album closer, “Fluorescent Half Dome,” is amazingly composed. Everything from 80’s style synths, panicking drums and the band’s interjected vocals lend a hand to deliver one astonishing song.
There is no denying, which is something many will point out, that the album’s best music is packed right in the middle. On previous albums, Longstreth allowed the female singers to chime in and without a doubt; they are everything about what makes Dirty Projectors such a compelling band. But here, they are in the spotlight, for all to behold. “Stillness is the Move” is Coffman’s stomping, jamming showcase. She belts out notes in such a confident manner that she gives Beyoncé a run for her money and with Longstreth’s noodly guitar playing, it’s a gorgeous piece.
But contrary to popular belief, the album’s best song is “Two Doves,” and with Deradoorian’s sultry voice, there’s nothing more you can ask for. Softly landscaped with sweeping strings of epic proportion -they swirl in and out of the picture like a flock of birds would- the acoustic guitar rustles in the background and she’s left alone, to give it all she has. When she sings, “Kiss me, with your mouth open,” it’s that blunt honesty that seems almost trite in its aesthetic manner but with Deradoorian singing it, it just melts your heart.
Rise Above was a re-imagined -out of sheer memory- exposé on Black Flag’s music and that album registered a steady kick of punch and grit. Ultimately Bitte Orca is definitely a pleasing follow-up; it just isn’t necessarily the supreme breakthrough many had hoped for. Mostly because it does feature a lot of the band’s best traits -those wonderful male-female vocals, the lively vibe that it actually feels like it’s being played in your living room and that quirky, off-pace, vibrant musicality- it wins out. If you’re new to the band, then goodness gracious, you are going to love this album.