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Dirty Projectors – Lamp-Lit Prose

It’s only been a little over a year since Dirty Projectors dropped their last album, 2017’s self-titled release, yet David Longstreth’s project is back again. It’s not difficult to see why such a quick turnaround way opted for; Dirty Projectors was met with mixed reception, due to the huge shift in sound it presented, swapping out colourful indie rock for downbeat R&B, as well as its uncomfortably personal lyrics. Charting the deterioration of Longstreth’s romantic relationship with former band member Amber Coffman, the album didn’t really hold back when it came to emotional ugliness.

Personally, I thought the album was Dirty Projectors’ strongest effort to date. While it was far from being perfect, the album’s strong points more than outweighed its weak ones. The production was absolutely fantastic in places and the lyrics – while a little cringey at times – felt a lot more honest and powerful than the ones on the project’s older albums. My opinion was everyone’s opinion though and, when examining the direction Longstreth has taken on this new album, it’s not hard to see that he took some of those criticisms to heart.

On Lamp-Lit Prose, Dirty Projectors takes an almost complete U-turn. Moody electronic R&B beats are traded off for colourful live instrumentation, bitter break-up lyrics for ones about new love and Longstreth’s singular, isolated vocals for a range of guest stars. It’s a return to Dirty Projector’s old sound, basically – which is both a good and bad thing. While the album is a lot less gutsy and ambitious than Dirty Projectors, it’s also a lot more fun to listen to… I mean, I’ve pretty much had it on repeat since it came out.

Lead single ‘Break-Thru’ is an easy standout. It took me a few listens to get into the track (at first sounding a bit like an overstuffed mess; Longstreth leaves no breathing space in the song, piling on layer after layer of instrumentation) but it’s since grown on me. It’s a sweet and catchy love song with a killer central guitar riff and some characteristcally goofy Longstreth lyrics, with everyone from Federico Fellini to Julian Casablancas getting name-dropped. It’s a real earworm.

The album’s other two singles are similarly solid. On ‘That’s A Lifestyle’, Longstreth addresses politics and consumerism while still managing to pull together a catchy hook, while ‘I Feel Energy’ is an all-out jam with an almost gospel edge to it. Both songs have a classic Dirty Projectors vibe to them and honestly wouldn’t have felt out of the place on one of the band’s few albums preceding their self-titled one.

And despite Dirty Projectors essentially being a solo project now, their sound has never been so rich. These tracks are filled to the brim with gorgeous instrumentation, with some trumpet flourishes here and a bit of harmonica there. The rich range of instruments featured allows even the album’s musically weaker songs to shine. Additionally, Longstreth’s vocals, while still very much an acquired taste, have never sounded better. I particularly love his falsetto freak-out at the end of ‘I Feel Energy’.

‘Blue Bird’ is the only the song I really dislike, with its nursery rhyme-like melody and lyrics that veer too far into sappy territory. Luckily, the album’s weaker moments like this one don’t detract from the overall experience too much, thanks to it only being a brisk ten tracks long, clocking in at just under forty minutes.  Lamp-Lit Prose isn’t trying to be something big and dramatic like Dirty Projectors, it knows what it is: a fun and quirky indie rock album.

While I’m still not totally sold on the band’s stylistic U-turn with this album, Lamp-Lit Prose is hard to dislike. It’s not particularly adventurous and it can be argued that it doesn’t do anything that the band haven’t done better on past releases, but it’s still a lot of fun. And maybe that’s all some albums need to be.

Best Tracks: ‘Break-Thru’, ‘That’s A Lifestyle’, ‘I Feel Energy’.


Superorganism – Superorganism

Superorganism is one of those bands that kind of came out of nowhere. After dropping their first major single late last year, ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D.’, they were immediately hyped up by various music sites. I thought the song was creative and weird in all the right ways (as was the following single ‘Everybody Wants To Be Famous’), but was unsure as to whether Superorganism’s quirky style would work well on a full-length album. A few months later and here we are with the band’s self-titled debut.

Part of the charm of Superorganism is their strangeness. Their sound has a collage-like feel to it, drawing from a lot of different places… It features beach rock guitar licks, squelchy synths and a heavy abundance of sound effects. There’s also a certain laziness to it that reminds me of artists such as Mac Demarco, with lead vocalist Orono Noguchi sounding as though she’s singing while lying down in bed. Songs titles like ‘It’s All Good’ and ‘The Prawn Song’ convey Superorganism’s lazy/quirky aesthetic quite well. The band have definitely nailed a genuinely unique sound, though it does bounce between being charming and slightly grating.

The aforementioned ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D.’ is a definite highlight. It’s the best introduction to the band, featuring all the signature elements of their sound and using them better than any other track on Superorganism. There’s all kinds of weirdness going on in the song, like the random sound effects in the background and the pitch shifting vocals. ‘Everybody Wants To Be Famous’ is also a stand-out; it’s easily the poppiest moment on the album and features an incredibly catchy chorus (and verses, to honest.)

There are plenty of other solid tracks here as well, such as ‘SPRORGNSM’ and ‘The Prawn Song’. Both are pretty ridiculous (the first featuring a distorted voiceover and second, well, being about being a prawn) but suit the band’s vibe well. I’m also a fan of ‘Night Time’, which has a great glittery disco feel to it. Most of the tracks on Superorganism feel stuffed to the brim, but ‘Night Time’ has a lot of breathing room on it. It has a great atmosphere.

As I mentioned before, the band’s sound does get grating in places. Though the album only clocks in at about 30 minutes, Superorganism’s various quirks do begin to wear thin by its end. The band have a habit of recycling the same elements over and over, such as the voiceover (which appears on both ‘SPRORGNSM’ and ‘It’s All Good’) as well as the beach-y guitar sound. I did experience some deja vu a couple of times because of this; in particular, the guitar at the opening of ‘Nai’s March’ sounds identical to that on ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D.’.

Superorganism is a fun listen though and the band have done a good job of crafting a unique sound. While the album isn’t perfect, it’s a good starting place for the band and I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next.

Best Tracks: ‘Everybody Wants To Be Famous’, ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D.’, ‘Night Time’

Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy

It’s easy to see indie rock as a dying genre. Though last year saw new albums from some of the genre’s biggest names (Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, Phoenix, to name a few), most of them felt just okay. None of the albums felt as essential as any of the stuff the bands had come out with last decade when the genre was in its heyday.

Really, all the hope for indie rock lies in its newer names now, like The War On Drugs, Parquet Courts and – of course – Car Seat Headrest. I was a little bit late to the party when it came to the band’s last release, Teen Of Denial – their first ‘studio’ album – but it’s quickly become one of my favourite releases of the decade so far. The album had something that recent releases from older bands like Arcade Fire seemed to be missing – a certain level of musical and emotional depth. Songs like ‘Fill in the Blank’ and ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’ had an old-school indie rock feel to them but still managed to feel fresh at the same time.

Twin Fantasy, Car Seat Headrest’s latest release, isn’t technically a new album, but a reimagining of frontman Will Toledo’s most famous Bandcamp release from the band’s pre-Matador days. It might as well be a new release though, because the album still feels incredibly fresh and incredibly ambitious. Twin Fantasy is a concept album focusing on a teen romance of Toledo’s (it’s still hard to believe that he first wrote these songs in his teenage years), telling a pretty cohesive story over its ten songs. While Teens Of Denial got personal at times, this release definitely feels a lot rawer emotionally.

Just look at the album’s lead single, ‘Beach Life-In-Death’. It’s a monster of a track, clocking in at just over thirteen minutes and featuring three distinct sections. It’s pretty emotionally loaded, dealing with everything from Toledo’s depression to him coming out to his friends over Skype. It’s also a fantastic song musically, shifting and changing constantly without it ever feeling forced. The album’s other huge track, ‘Prophets (Stars)’, which is another three minutes longer than ‘Beach Life-In-Death’,  acts as the album’s huge climax. It’s a slower song, more drawn out, but arguably just as powerful.

With such long songs, Twin Fantasy can seem like a daunting album to jump into, but it also features its fair share of moments that are a little less intense. ‘Sober to Death’ is a gorgeous ballad about depression and features some of Toledo’s sweetest lyrics, while ‘Nervous Young Inhumans’ is probably the album’s most radio-friendly moment. ‘Bodys’ and ‘Cute Thing’ are similarly fantastic – it’s hard not to love the latter track’s roaring chorus – each featuring Toledo’s usual blend of clever lyrics and interesting instrumental choices. There’s a huge amount to love here.

Impressively for an album of this length, every track here feels essential (except maybe ‘Stop Smoking (We Love You)’, but it’s not even two minutes long). It’s an incredibly cohesive release, perhaps even more so than Teens Of Denial.

While it would’ve been nice to receive a completely new album from the band, I’m guessing most people haven’t dug into the Toledo’s Bandcamp back catalogue – essentially making all these songs fresh. Twin Fantasy shows that there’s still plenty of life left in indie rock and, despite some fairly stale releases from last year, it’s a genre that can still surprise us. We just need a few more bands like Car Seat Headrest.

Best Tracks: ‘Beach Life-In-Death’, ‘Sober to Death’, ‘Bodys’.