The end of a long relationship demolishes our sense of who we are and our place in the world. Emotions run high. Hate turns into sadness, then morphs into regret. Dave Longstreth of Dirty Projectors gives us a tour of these emotions on the new, self-titled Dirty Projectors album. Following his split from Amber Coffman, a former lover and member of Dirty Projectors, Longstreth’s agony, remorse and nostalgia come crashing through with the power of a cement truck barreling down the highway at 100 mph.
Dirty Projectors is a journey that begins at the end of an era. As church bells stop ringing on the opening track “Keep Your Name,” Longstreth croons, “I don’t know why you abandoned me / You were my soul and my partner / What we imagined and what we became / We’ll keep ‘em separate and you keep your name.”
Alongside sorrowful lyrics is a production just as complex as the breakup that inspired it.
Layers of guitar, synths, drum kits, horns and piano lead to an incredibly diverse soundscape. Stimulating every corner of the mind, the production on Dirty Projectors seamlessly combines aspects of indie rock, hip-hop and electronic music in order to drive the narrative of loss.
In many ways, Dirty Projectors is akin to Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak (Kanye and the album are referenced several times throughout). Aside from the obvious similarities in lyrical content, the project takes strides in a new direction for the artist. Dirty Projectors have long been champions of a unique sound in indie rock, but Longstreth’s captivating production is amplified by voice manipulations that haven’t been explored to the same extent on any past Dirty Projectors record.
Longstreth’s voice works as another layer in an immense, and sometimes confusing, soundscape while also acting as the guide through his own story of heartbreak.
Expressing vulnerability walks a fine line between sharing honest feelings and drowning in self-pity. More often than not, music following such a life-altering event can feel too focused on the sadness. On Dirty Projectors, the story is told in full. Eventually, everyone must continue with their lives regardless of whether or not they have fully come to terms with the situation.
“Up In Hudson” tells the background story of a years-long relationship from its inception. The proclamation of the end of their relationship on the first two tracks works as a flashback of Longstreth and Coffman’s time together, setting the stage for the nostalgic and contemplative tracks that follow.
From “Little Bubble,” which oozes with sentimental memories of the past, to “Cool Your Heart,” which shows Longstreth trying to move on, Dirty Projectors’ strongest attribute is staying true to the entire experience of a breakup. The highs and lows are shown with full honesty, never shying away from the gory details.
The journey from the beginning of the album to its accepting conclusion is filled with turmoil that is hard to grasp. However, clarity shines through the chaotic nature of the album in a way that captures the essence of what it’s like to cope with lost love.