A Gem from an Intelligent Pop Band


bitteorcaDirty Projectors: Bitte Orca (Domino)

As a fairly new fan of Dirty Projectors, I have spent the past year discovering the prolific catalog of David Longstreth's creations. After hearing his collaboration with David Byrne, "Knotty Pine," for Dark Was the Night, I was excited by the new pop-inclined trajectory of the band's sound. This direction was further confirmed when the first single from Bitte Orca, "Stillness is the Move," was released. The song is full of the band's frenetic musical style, but is channeled into a straight pop single. Imagine a musical translation of Beyonce. The song is the best would-be radio hit that I've heard all year. 

The rest of the album doesn't disappoint either. It may be their most accessible release yet. "Two Doves," a mellow acoustic gem in the middle of the album, is a direct tribute to Jackson Browne's made-famous-by-Nico "These Days," complete with finger-picked guitar, strings, icy female vocals, and the line "Please don't confront me with my failures." Longstreth is an expert at this type of cover-tribute-translation: Bitte Orca's predecessor, Rise Above, was a from-memory interpretation of Black Flag's 1981 album Damaged.

On Bitte Orca, Dirty Projectors make extensive use of their three female singers. The harmonies are creative and innovative, at once foreign and catchy. "Temecula Sunrise" is a particularly energetic display of Longstreth's clever songwriting -- "and what hits the spot like Gatorade" -- and the band's creative faculties. The beauty of the album and the band lies in their dynamic ability to transform and travel within the bounds of each song. Nothing is consistent, but everything comes back and becomes familiar.

Dirty Projectors have always made pop music, but their lack of following in the "indie mainstream" is a product of their own sonic adventures. For those who will dig deep and listen, Bitte Orca is one of the best pop albums of the year. With luck, it could give Dirty Projectors some of the recognition that they deserve. - Rian Rooney


Mr. Rooney is a student at Columbia University and has worked for the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, WBAR radio, and Showpaper.