Monday, September 10, 2007

Confused By The Dirty Projectors

"Hi, my name is Mike Powell. I listened to the new Dirty Projectors album, and it was so crazy that it made me look like this:

Yeah, I look like a confused child. I like music, I really do, I just don't know how to express it. You know what, I like this Dirty Projectors album, but the dubious hipster in me tells me not to trust these feelings. Now I'll let J. Temp rip my completely ambiguous review."

Thanks Mike, don't mind if I do.

Hearing the band rip through material from last year's New Attitude EP on a recent Daytrotter session was like watching the glass slipper slide on.

Mike likes the Dirty Projectors. Their recent performance leads him to believe that they have hit their stride.

While Longstreth's initial albums were mostly string-backed folk, he's now given himself up to rhythm-- in his words, his compositions have become more "horizontal" than "vertical." The horizontal's great for dancing-- an opportunity that arises a few times here-- but verticality is still the source of the songs' tensions.

Translated to layman's terms: The music is sometimes more dancey thanks to an emphasis on rhythm. This section of the paragraph is tragically busy. Also, lost in the vernacular is a decent knowledge of music and the way it is shaped. Too bad.

Coffman and Waiche's coos stack harmonies with Longstreth's bleat like little car wrecks, and even though the guitars move like a West African dance band or math rock, the songs seem propelled by the constant resolutions of notes rather than the beats themselves.

When describing group vocals, this is perhaps at the bottom of the totem pole. Little car wrecks. How three people singing sounds like Micro Machine fender-benders is beyond me. Does it sound accidentally good? Is it good at all? The confusion is palpable.
Weaving guitar lines = West African Dance Band OR math rock? Are you saying that the guitar lines are influenced by those two elements, or are we supposed to pick one?
I'm not really sure I can translate this section into something tangible. It's a twisted mess of simile and half-finished thoughts.

Some of this record sounds like Phish and some of it sounds like the Police.

Translation: The album sound neither here nor there. To say that the record sounds like these bands without any sonic context is preposterous. The Police and Phish don't have a single compositional path, both veer off the beaten path quite often. Therefore this sound-a-like comparison has zero weight. Writing a sentence like that is the equivalent to driving an airplane across the country without taking off.

There's a verse in Esperanto.

He must have meant to edit this out. I hope.

When Longstreth strides into the singer-songwriter spotlight, he's so determined to express himself he forgets the idea is to share, instead employing melisma that's so brutal it's almost embarrassing.

Nope. Nope nope nope. Your idea of expressing yourself is to share. Perhaps that's not part of Longstreth's idea of expression. You can't penalize a guy because he doesn't fit into your specific definition of a form of creative expression. And maybe he can't sing very well, but all you have to do is say so. Instead, you used music nerd language to express your feelings. For those of you who don't know (and I guarantee you there is more than a handful):

Melisma \Me*lis"ma\, n.; pl. Melismata. [NL., fr. Gr. me`lisma
     a song.] (Mus.)
(a) A piece of melody; a song or tune, -- as opposed to
recitative or musical declamation.
(b) A grace or embellishment.
[1913 Webster]

And he sounds like he's having fun! And that's scary.

So you like the album, or you don't? All of this review has been perfectly vague.

But newfound focus from the band brings newfound exhaustion for listeners.

I've always really enjoyed the argument that listening to music can be "exhausting". As if you can break a fucking sweat listening to prog rock. Has anyone actually died from listening to music that is just too busy, too challenging for our feeble ears and minds?

Nope. Never happened. That's why that expression is bullcrap.

For all his supposed messiness, Longstreth is actually really brittle and anal-retentive.

Let me fix this sentence for Mike: For all of his supposed messiness (a myth promulgated by Pitchfork and other uber-indie sitez), Longstreth is actually really brittle and anal-retentive (according to me, Mike, who interviewed the guy once, so I guess I'm just basing this on pure conjecture, seeing as how you can't judge a book by its cover).

That the album has a concept-- a song-by-song "reimagining" of Black Flag's Damaged-- scarcely matters to the listener, although it seems good for Longstreth: It gives the illusion of an anchor.

The illusion of an anchor? Really? I'd say it is a compositional anchor. It's as a real as a theoretical anchor could be and to mention it as an afterthought is laughable.

He recently told me that it was his attempt at making a "New York album: angular, austere, obsessed with authenticity, like New York bands supposedly are." The assumptions seem off, but he probably hit the mark. They're consumed with cultural appropriation and aesthetic polyamory-- a post-pop-art idea of authenticity.

This is just weird. He disagrees with Longstreth's point about New York music, and then provides a clear argument against his disagreement. Why?

Rise Above will drop plenty of jaws, and, like Deerhoof, Dirty Projectors are restructuring rock on a compositional level rather than a sonic one. To murder a cliché, whatever unfurls from Longstreth's brain next isn't anyone's guess-- Rise Above, for all its fastidiousness and minor drawbacks, finally displays the perfect counterargument to the portrait of him as another nutso college dropout: It displays a pattern.

If anyone can tell me what the pattern is, I'll give you a pot of gold. I really don't understand this paragraph. It's completely convoluted, and it ends with that ridiculous pattern statement. He could've just stopped at the first sentence.

The strange thing is, he gives it an 8.1 after all this rambling. For the entire review he seemed to be sitting on the fence, willing to appreciate the Projector's vision and new-found compositional prowess but unwilling to admit that Longstreth and company know what they're doing. I would expect a rating of 5.6 or 6.8 at the most. You can't sow that much doubt without owning up to it.


Mattie-O said...

To be fair, I think if you're at all concerned with pop music these days, you should be familiar with the concept of melisma (i.e. in the common usage describing one or more pitch-changes per word of lyric)

It's the sort of thing which is stunning in the right hands (Sam Cooke) and brutally awful in the wrong hands (any American Idol contestant).

Also, just wanted to be sure you saw this:

J. Temperance said...

True, most 20-30 year old music fans know of this term melisma.

Also, Morrissey.

Good melisma, bad melisma?


Uticas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Uticas said...

for me, i'm not so clear on the difference between 'compositional' and 'sonic' (only that compositional the hedgehog wasn't as awesome).