Dirty Projectors

Reviews: Quick Hits (Part 1)

Though we here at Rust Is Just Right try as hard as we can, it simply is not possible for us to review all the great new albums that come across our way.  However, since our goal is to highlight great music that you may have not discovered yet, we feel obligated to at least give a brief mention to some of the records that we have accumulated over the past few months that are worthy of your consideration.

Ceremony – The L-Shaped Man This album sounds like a lost collection of Joy Division/early New Order B-Sides, and I mean that with absolutely no snark at all.  That should come as no surprise, considering the band is named after the song that served as a bridge between the two bands, but this actually represents a shift in sound for a group that previously trafficked in a style closer to hardcore.  In other words, take every smartass remark made about Interpol and apply it to these guys, but we suggest that you refrain from over-intellectualizing and instead embrace the gloomy grooves.

Deradoorian – The Expanding Flower Planet Fans of the Dirty Projectors are well-acquainted with the beautiful, ethereal voice of former member Angel Deradoorian, and they should be delighted with her solo debut.  It is easy to get lost in the trippy, psychedelic journey that Deradoorian takes on this record, though at times it can make for a frustrating listen, despite the abundance of talent on display.

Ducktails – St. Catherine The side project of Real Estate guitarist Matt Mondanile shares many of the qualities that led fans to appreciate his main gig, namely easy-going vibes and slick, pretty leads.  However, Mondanile does get to indulge a bit and explore other sounds, venturing towards the synthpop side of the music spectrum.

Ratatat – Magnifique There is nothing quite like this distinctive instrumental duo, who blend electronic beats and catchy inventive guitar riffs.  For this go around, Ratatat shows off their sunnier side, incorporating elements of surf music into their trademark sound.  The album seems to drag on a bit longer than it should, but it would be hard to cut out any specific track, because that would mean missing out on some excellent hooks.

The Sonics – The Is The Sonics The garage-rock pioneers have returned with a vengeance, proving that the old guys still have the energy to blow the young folks out of the water, so to speak.  In other words, this is not your typical embarrassing reunion of fogies who are long past their sell-by date–there is some serious verve and passion to this record.

Catching Up On The Week (Sept. 11 Edition)

A few #longreads for your enjoyment this weekend…

There were only a handful of articles worth perusing this week, but be sure to read this piece by legendary Rush drummer Neil Peart for TeamRock.  The piece is a response to a compliment from Queens of the Stone Age/The Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore for one of Peart’s solos, and Neil explains the narrative behind the solo.  It is fascinating to see the amount of effort and backstory that went into its creation, and also shows that indeed there is some “craft” to drumming.

Alternative Nation had another interesting piece with this interview with ESPN sportscaster Kenny Mayne in which he discusses his relationship with Pearl Jam, and includes some great anecdotes about seeing the group’s famous Benaroya and Wrigley Field shows, among others.

Rolling Stone has a brief interview with former Dirty Projectors member Angel Deradoorian, who just recently released her excellent solo debut, The Exploding Flower Planet.  It was a much more pleasant experience than this caustic interview by Spin with Public Image Ltd.’s John Lydon, but that should probably have been expected.

Finally, a couple of anniversary pieces from Stereogum, though you may want to skip over them.  First, there’s a tenth-anniversary retrospective of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s self-titled debut, which is used as an excuse to bash on the concept of “blog rock” and take some undeserved shots at the group.  The twentieth-anniversary appreciation of Blur’s The Great Escape is a bit better, though it is not one of the band’s best works.  However, it does have the appropriate appreciation for “The Universal”, which is easily one of the greatest songs that Blur ever recorded.

Covered: “Stillness Is The Move”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original.  If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before.

Dirty Projectors broke through in a big way in 2009 with their release Bitte Orca; though the album didn’t sell that many copies (which, let’s be honest, was to be expected, considering the experimental nature of their work as well as the decline in sales across the music industry overall), it garnered a massive amount of praise and ended up on countless Best Of lists.  At the very least, it earned the group substantial buzz and a placement on the strangest triple-bill I’ve ever seen–playing Madison Square Garden with Wavves and headliner Phoenix (plus a special appearance from Daft Punk(!)).  I will never forget looking across the arena that night and seeing thousands of faces that were alternately bewildered by the complex time signatures and odd vocal inflections of the group or merely bored by the lack of instantly-accessible melodies and wondering when those guys with that one song they really liked were going to show up.

“Stillness Is The Move” was a highlight of Bitte Orca for many fans, even if it strayed a bit from the usual Dirty Projectors formula (as much as there is such a “formula”).  Dave Longstreth’s yelps don’t make an appearance on this track, as the group’s three female vocalists (Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, and Haley Dekle) provide the harmonies, though his intricate and unique guitar style makes a distinct impression.  The guitar is paired with a glitchy upper-register bass part which helps provide a skittering counterpoint; though the two parts have two markedly different rhythmic patterns, they somehow fit together in a pleasing groove.  But the true power of the song is the gorgeous interweaving melodies of the vocals, which will have you humming along long after the track is over.

She may be remembered more for her antics inside an elevator with her sister and brother-in-law last year, but there was a time where Solange attempted to step outside of Beyonce’s shadow by launching a music career of her own.  Though we seem to be coming closer everyday to becoming ruled politically by a couple of dynasties, the public has been less accepting of nepotism in the music industry for the most part, and as a result few remember Solange’s brief career.  If Solange is remembered at all, it’s generally as a punchline.

However, there was one brief shining moment to her career that is worth revisiting, and that is her cover of “Stillness Is The Move.”  Solange displays great vocal dexterity in her handling of the song’s complex melodies, allowing her to show off her range and musicality.  It’s an impressive display of musicianship in its own right, but the true power of her cover is how it develops and embellishes the strengths of the original.  The cover emphasizes the deep rhythmic groove, showing that hiding underneath all the usual indie rock trappings there was a soulful R&B song; though it’s hardly definitive evidence, a quick look at the way the singers dance in the original music video helps confirm this assertion.  The interweaving guitar and bass parts in the original may interact with each other in an elaborate manner, but they’re actually held together by a simple drum groove that drives the song.

Additionally, Solange’s vocals help illustrate the technical achievements of the original.  Subsequent listens revealed how the trio was able to bounce around difficult intervals and odd rhythmic accents with ease, which I had glossed over initially.  With that in mind, I can’t say that Solange’s version is the superior one, though she does a great job of making it her own, but that it’s still an excellent performance because of the way that it found new qualities in the original that had previously been overlooked.