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Dirty Projectors: Lamp Lit Prose

Dirty Projectors: Lamp Lit ProseI love collage. There’s something magical about disparate elements coming together to make something new. It’s fresh. It’s modern. It feels cool.

Hip hop music, especially sample-based hip hop music, is probably the most accessible and familiar medium to use the concept of collage. But hip hop producers aren’t the only ones using these concepts. Pavement was a collage-oriented band, taking bits and scraps of songs and putting them together into something totally fresh. Granted this seemed to Pavement’s own bits and scraps of songs, but they were bits and scraps nonetheless.

Pavement’s songs had complexity. They felt like they were written in movements and those movements didn’t always fit together perfectly. Sure, there were songs like “Range Life,” which were straight ahead, but there were also songs like “Major Leagues,” which felt completely disjointed, with little guitar parts that would extend a hook past the place where it would naturally end. I liked that. I still look for that kind of thing in music.

The Dirty Projectors are a kind of band that make this kind of music, too. In fact, just finding the words to commend their new album, Lamp Lit Prose, escape me. I could go with a “wide” description here and say that this is a jubilant record, which, from the arrangements, would seem clear to the listener.

The album’s first eight tracks are almost all upbeat. These are fun songs: there is a song about a date (“Blue Bird”) and a song about a zombie hunter (“Zombie Conquerer”). Heck, the record starts with horns on the first track.

I wanna feel everything
Sweetness of youth and old age’s sting
Open my eyes wide and unblinking
I wanna feel everything
– (I Wanna) Feel It All

Lamp Lit Prose is a complex record, too, featuring elements of 80s R&B (“I Feel Energy”), a lullaby (“Blue Bird”), insane 60s folk style guitar picking (“That’s a Lifestyle,”), and a Chicago-style horn section (“Right Now”). But still, that wouldn’t tell the whole story of this record.

I think that the best illustration of the life that I’ve found on this record comes in the juxtaposition of the lyrics on the album’s first track, “Right Now,” and the album’s last track, “(I Wanna) Feel It All.”

On “Right Now,” the Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth uses the chant “right now” to show his urgency for the moment. The urgency of the song carries with the album’s tracks—nary a moment is wasted. The whole thing feels new, fresh, fun, original and urgent.

But why? The answer lies in the lyrics to the last track, “(I Wanna) Feel It All.” When Longstreth sings “I wanna feel everything, Sweetness of youth and old age’s sting, Open my eyes wide and unblinking, I wanna feel everything,” you get a sense of Lonstreth’s impending urgency. Life is moving quickly. There isn’t time to waste.

I like that this point isn’t explored ad nauseum. Instead there’s the fanciful stuff—the track about the date, the zombie killer. You get a real sense that this is music that isn’t being performed by design, but that is being explored in collaboration with a whole host of ideas on display. The collage is varied in form and lives unto its present moment.

Note: The original cover image has been modified.