Afro-Pop Conditioner

By MusicNerd July 2, 2009


Dirty Projectors take a shower

Here is my favorite story about Dave Longstreth, the leader of the Dirty Projectors. In 2005, Longstreth was touring alone and after a Seattle show he crashed on the couch of one of my friends. Early the next morning he took a shower and my friend heard him singing in the shower. With that voice: that octave stretching yelp, both precise and unhinged, that could burst at any moment. The acoustics of the shower made it even more surreal, his voice soaked into the house. Then he stopped abruptly, paused, considered and asked, “Which comes first...shampoo or conditioner?”

This is what Dirty Projectors was: A singular musician who didn't understand how people showered. The solo project of a strange Yale grad whose vocal stylings and imaginatively orchestrated slow tempo jams were disconnected enough from the everyday use of pop to be unique (and sometimes astounding), but that disconnect could also make them completely unlistenable; a meandering, screeching journey into the shampoo-less caverns of the American spirit.

But it's not like that anymore. Longstreth added a pair of female vocalists and vaguely afro-pop guitars to his odd time signatures and his ART-pop became art-pop. Their new album, Bitte Orca, is a perfect balance. Its pleasing but coarse. Its immediate and wandering. Its catchy as hell in way you have never thought about before.

Take “Stillness is the Move,” that LP's stand out track. R n' B is reimagined with chiming guitars and a confident stutter beat with a soaring vocal hook that could be an Aaliyah chorus if it didn't keep shimmying away at the last moment. You will find yourself unconsciously singing it in the elevator and being a little embarrassed, but you shouldn't be. If anyone around you had heard the song, they were seconds away from doing the same thing.

Dirty Projectors play Chop Suey on Friday July 3.

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