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CD of The Week

Week of 7/23/18

    Dirty Projectors - Lamp Lit Prose (Domino)

    The last Dirty Projectors album signaled something of a Sea Change for Dave Longstreth. Chronicling the ups, downs, and ultimate end of both his musical and romantic partnership with former bandmate Amber Coffman, it was an occasionally offputting, frequently fascinating effort that abandoned most if not all of what had previously been signatures of the project. The fact that the album was eponymous no doubt left longtime listeners curious if not concerned. Was this what Dave sounded like now? Arriving just a year and a half later, Lamp Lit Prose reveals its predecessor more of a stylistic detour than divesture. Having exorcised his lingering demons, he's back to exercising the more playful songwriting, composition, and above all collaboration that has always defined his best work.

    In fact, Lamp might be his brightest sounding work since he released his masterpiece Bitte Orca nearly ten years ago. Opener "Right Now" lets us in on where his head is at fairly quickly: "There was a silence in my heart, but now I'm striking up the band!" It's both a literal and figurative statement of purpose, as it finds him not only picking himself back up, but picking up live instrumentation again as well after last year's heavily synthesized musings. It also finds him adopting his trademark angelic backing harmonies again, in this case provided by alt-R&B fave Syd.

    She's but the first of many guests to join the party celebrating Dirty Projectors' relative return to form. The sisters of Haim sweeten the otherwise sobering narrative of "That's A Lifestyle" with their synchronized sighing, while Transmission darling Empress Of provides a port in the stormy, stomping "Zombie Conqueror". While all of these names could threaten to distract even further from Longstreth's strength's on paper (members of Fleet Foxes and Vampire Weekend pop up too), they mostly tweak their voices to suit the signature Dirty Projectors sound. They remind the listener that Longstreth's biggest strength as an artist has always been conjuring the feeling of campfire singalongs, even with his most chaotic music.

    With that, while the album is coherent and even catchy, it lacks a number that instantly seizes attention the way "Stillness IsTthe Move" or "Temecula Sunrise" did. Nevertheless, Lamp Lit Prose won't leave listeners worried that highs like those are beyond reach like his last album did. The key components are still there, and Longstreth's latest Prose proves that he can still create with them. He's still on the move.
    Review by Rob Huff

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