Two months ago, give or take, I started my now-very-infrequent segment The Nightly Three. One of the first albums I reviewed was Bitte Orca, the new Dirty Projectors album. I gave it a 4.5. I personally believe that, after two months, I need to correct this wrong. In short, my belief is that, just 6 months into the year, Dirty Projectors have stopped the race for Best of the Year dead in its tracks, with what is certainly one of the most flawless albums of the decade at large.
Since listening to it initially, I have listened to it more times than I can even count. In short, it’s the finest work that Dirty Projectors have put out, so much more accessible than The Getty Address, despite the grandiose nature of that work. Each track packs a lyrical quality that breaks the barriers confining conventional songwriting, in favor of emotional exploration, from the light-hearted (“And what hits the spot, yeah, like Gatorade? You and me baby, hittin’ the spot all night”) to the sweeping, moving, stunning, and beautiful (“Geranium kisser/Skin like silk and face like glass/Don’t confront me with my failures/Kiss me with your mouth open/For your love, better than wine”). Somehow, Dave Longstreth manages to reinvent the wheel of pop music with Bitte Orca, as is completely obvious on the oft’ cited Mariah Carey-inspired “Stillness is the Move” and the tremendously fun “Remade Horizon.”
Longstreth also woofs and warps the way conventional song structure works, with more cuts than a goth girl’s forearm (as is evident by the movement breaks in de facto title track “Useful Chamber”), and completely skewing the line between what is sung elegantly (“Two Doves”), what is charming (“Stillness is the Move”) and what is almost outlandish (“Cannibal Resource”), but somehow, with the help of his cover stars Angel Deradoorian and Amber Coffman, rips to shreds the way musicians should play, write, and even sing. The contained and focused fuzz and pop of Bitte Orca, dare I say it, has almost singlehandedly re-written what pop means.
With a bombastic and crackly voice, in the chorus of the opener, “Cannibal Resource,” Longstreth sings a line that seems almost fitting, considering all of my talk of how groundbreaking I believe this album is: “I think you’re more than a terrified witness behind the arbitrary line.” I believe that, in just 9 songs, and just over 40 minutes, he and his band have proven that the line really is arbitrary, and should be crossed and erased so stunningly more often.