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It must take an awful lot of work to be as annoying as Dirty Projectors. The whole thing screams New York Art School at you so loud that you just want to hurl the thing out the window and listen to that new Stock Aitken and Waterman comp instead. But sometimes they get things very right indeed. ‘Maybe That Was It’ is a stunning piece of music, recalling Eno’s pop experiments and the lopsided charm of Gastr Del Sol or Red Krayola. Brilliant.
Listening to the album through without fishing for highlights is a more frustrating business though. Opener ‘Offspring are Blank’ starts off with the same vocal gymnastics that appeared on their near-unlistenable collaboration with Bjork before bursting into a full-on rock chorus that would make Jack White proud. ‘About to Die’ starts off promisingly with some topsy-turvy songcraft but the wailing female vocals and stop-start structure is like something out of a David Byrne wet dream and therefore is not nice.
‘Gun Has No Trigger’ again exemplifies how Dirty Projectors are kind of a leftfield cousin (ha!) to Vampire Weekend - the same constipated vocal style but so unpalatable you want to vomit all over your CD player, accompanied by incessant female wails. The title track is a little bit more ear-friendly with a gorgeously strummed acoustic guitar, low key arrangements and finally no over the top hollering. It sounds kind of unfinished like they threw the idea down onto tape and not believing their own melodicity ran out the door before they went back in and put a discordant skronk in the middle of it.
‘Just from Chevron’ reverts to a lead from the female vocal person and is much the better for it. You can certainly hear the influence of Van Dyke Parks in here with a carefully wandering melody amongst the African-influenced guitars - very good until another ridiculous tangent is wandered into. Although lovely, ‘Dance For You’ has the exact same vocal inflection as many Animal Collective songs proving that although trying to be different, Dirty Projectors fall into the exact same trap of many blog-friendly American bands of all just sounding like each other.
I’ve been a little harsh at times in this review but Dirty Projectors just rub me up the wrong way a lot of the time, they have some splendid melodies, a tumbling backlog of ideas and the album certainly improves over its second half once they get all the drunken show-tune stuff out their system and settle down a bit into concentrating on writing some pretty decent and innovative songs.
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