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Dirty Projectors have been a part of my life since I heard their first album, The Glad Fact. At the time, I knew nothing about Dave Longstreth or the album he’d recorded under his own name as a college freshman, The Graceful Fallen Mango – an album I’ve always wanted to call “a fine slice of New England soul music” (whether or not that’s really accurate). The Glad Fact inspired me to write my first and only record review, in which, with all the awkwardness befitting an inexperienced and overzealous writer, I proclaimed,

“Dave Longstreth is making his own fucked-up version of American music.”

It’s funny to think that I would go on to play in the DPz touring line up and have my keyboard playing make it on to the New Attitude EP – let alone become budz with the dude!

When I first met Dave he mentioned that he’d read the review and asked what I meant by “fucked-up American music.” I found it hard to articulate any sensible reason why I’d used that description, but some deep, non-verbal part of me felt like bro, it’s really true.

Now, four game-shifting, next-level DPz releases later, I’m hearing the newest album, Bitte Orca, for the first time and that awkward phrase is crawling back into my head.

Staring at the album’s title and tracklisting, I feel a little shut-out. I can’t glean any concept or narrative from titles like “Cannibal Resource” or “Useful Chamber.” I start to realize that this album can’t be explained as reductively as Rise Above (“Damaged re-imagined”) or The Getty Address (“concept album about Don Henley with nods to modern R&B”). This is exciting.

At first, I listen to this record hunting for a theme. I hear big riffs that make me think of classic rock, so I think, “Is this Led Zeppelin deconstructed?” I hear folk guitar picking and gorgeous strings, so I think, “Is this 60’s folk-pop re-imagined?” But, as is usually the case, my lame attempts at categorization fade away and soon all I can hear is Dirty Projectors.

Ultimately, I don’t hear Brian’s brutally excellent drumming or Dave and Amber’s riffs as “classic rock” signifiers. “Temecula Sunrise” is not the sound of Dad cracking open a brew in ’75. It’s not Physical Graffiti for 2K9; it’s 2K9’s Physical Graffiti. You feel me?

I couldn’t explain what I meant about “fucked-up American music” six years ago and I’m not that interested in trying to explain it now. I just think it’s fitting to describe DPz with a phrase that’s been exploited by the worst of the worst and the corniest of the corniest, but has always had the potential to mean something rad:

Uniquely American

-Ezra Koenig (of Vampire Weekend)



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