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Dirty Projectors fall short of hype

August 27, 2009

Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

Dirty Projectors
Bitte Orca
Domino Records
June 9, 2009

Rating: 4.0/10

Please Killer Whale.

That is the literal translation from German to English of Brooklyn’s Dirty Projectors latest album.

Though personally, I doubt even Shamu would enjoy the howling falsetto or shrill guitar tones thrown at the listener on this album. Yet somehow, this album has already been named best album of 2009 by Stereogum, and garnered rave reviews from outlets far and wide.

With more than two months to fully digest this album, and the press that it has earned, I feel as though I have eaten a lot of garbage.

This is not the staggering work of genius that I expected when I first laid ears upon this album. Nor is it “a triumph in sustained creative restlessness” as Paste Magazine described it to be.

Rather, what I hear when I listen to “Bitte Orca” is a piece of work that casts aspersions upon tried and true theories of music to spite the process itself.

The music on this album is difficult, intentionally, for the sake of being difficult. However, to me, that is the 2009 indie music scene in a nutshell.

Except for a few notable releases this year, Neko Case and Grizzly Bear to name a couple, the popular shift within the music that has been released this year has been towards songs with no sense of faithfulness towards the practices that have made music enjoyable for decades and even centuries.

Not to be misunderstood, I enjoy a good deal of diversity from the music I choose to listen to; however, I must draw a line at some point. All year I have had inaccessible music from bands such as Animal Collective, Wavves or Japandroids shoved at me by various reputable entertainment establishments. Now I have the bitter taste of betrayal stuck in my mouth as I try to retrieve what is good and wholesome from new releases unassisted.

Perhaps this problem stems from my upbringing. I am no Brooklynite hipster, but rather a Central Illinois native who prefers his music to have structure and a soul.

This is music composed as art, and it tried to be smarter than the listener. It has an air of pretension to it that hangs over each note. If the song is not layered with inaudible vocals and synthesizers then it is stripped to bare, leaving it feeling hollow.

Dirty Projectors worked with indie-rock immortal David Byrne for February’s “Dark Was the Night” collaboration, creating one of the indispensable tracks on that sprawling collection, “Knotty Pine.” This beautifully simple tune left me clamoring for more, but eventually let me down, as nothing on “Bitte Orca” comes close.

The cacophonous wailing and piercing, staccato tone of the instruments blend to form an ear-punishing amalgamation of noise that is reluctantly branded as music. It makes me yearn for the “it” bands of 2008 like Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, whose quiet harmonies were pleasing and simple.

“Bitte Orca” will not be on any end of the year lists of mine, nor will it be in my iTunes for much longer. I would much rather put on an old jazz record and hear music that embodies a true “creative restlessness” and embraces song structure.

Originally posted in The Daily Vidette.

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