Dirty Projectors — Lamp Lit Prose ANALYSIS & REVIEW
It was a bit of a deceiving listen at first, as the music was very focused on delivering provocative, obvious pop melodies while also being rather obscure in its structure-less acoustic sounds of guitar and singular orchestral families. It didn’t start out too enthralling, as the sound lacked stability from a thin texture that tried doing too much with too little, evidenced by guitar parts in “Right Now“ and “Break Thru” that were simply quite distracting in sound quality and fast rhythms that didn’t mesh very well with its surroundings.
Then, starting with the song “That’s a Lifestyle” and going through the rest of the album, the timbre made an important change from attempting strict captivation through multiple combinations and unexpectedness to focusing on singular instruments (or families) by way of conventionality. The acoustic guitar was light and buoyant, the electric guitar was simple and driving, the brass combos were smooth and uplifting, and the woodwinds in the final track were a strong, pastoral pallet cleanser. Numerically speaking, textures still stayed rather noticeably thin, and the highlighted instrumental group on the tracks were giving too much of a background feel that didn’t connect with the vocal melodies all that well. On the other hand, the minimal attempts to add numbers to the texture, such as the last couple of minutes in the song “I Feel Energy”, had the same problem of the first two tracks with the feeling of each layer rambling too much on their own without much sensibility in progression or development. A consistent beat deliverance was also lacking throughout, despite the obvious meters; percussion was not effectively used at all, being more inattentive frills if anything. Lastly, the vocal layer wasn’t too impressive, either. Lots of odd effects, weird hockets between different voices, and uninspiring falsetto dragged the music down quite a bit.
For most of the second half, the timbre settled as being plain, basic platforms of conventionality that went through instrumental variety but stayed away from giving much energy, direction, or phrasing on its own. It was a step up from the beginning, and looking back on it, that’s all that was really needed on a basic level for the music to become enjoyable, as there was some fun songwriting done here. As mentioned before, the melodies were spearheading the textures and giving each song a unique stamp. Aside from a couple of dull modern tropes creeping in, like too much pentatonic reliance in the song “Break-Thru”, they surprised and lifted the spirit of each song by being what the overall sound wasn’t — a connected presence that had both personality and engagement. Range and rhythm, although coming across as simple givens, were paramount in providing a unique life to the structure that was teetering on being too deadpan. Longstreth was pretty good at writing developed lines from birth in the verse to important chorus moments, like the bloom that occurs in the song “Blue Bird” by use of continual vocal rise going through several friendly motivic repetitions until the crux on the song’s title.
While harmony was nicely understandable throughout, it mostly lacked variety in engaging rhythm, and was rather subservient to whatever limitations the current instrumental family had in terms of pace and range. Like the timbre, it stayed rather out of the way but also harmless, and there was an easygoing approach to decorating tonic with nothing flashy but nothing annoying. Two songs rose above the rest and put this album into the higher echelon of “decent” for me: “Zombie Conqueror” and “I Found it in U”. It mostly had to with harmony coming together and dictating emotion, giving a nice multimeter feel with nice colorful arpeggiations on I and V in the former, and a driving solid repetitive rhythm on I and V in the latter. Those were both pretty fun songs, and I think most of this album is certainly worth a listen. For those who long for sonic brilliance or far-fetched, successful timbral experiments, this will be underwhelming. Beneath that, though, there’s some nice tunes.