Bitte Orca

The Dirty Projectors

Domino, 2009

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Stop me if you're heard this setup before: a Brooklyn-based indie band, made up of a bunch of skinny, clean-cut (but strategically scruffy-looking) twentysomethings, records an album that's a struggle to wade through, but somehow catches fire with Web critics. Tons of press gets written about them, established high-rollers in the music field extol the virtues of the band and the band's album goes on to sell tens of thousands of copies, with the number of articles about the band almost equaling the number of albums sold.

This year, that scenario fit Dirty Projectors. Lead singer Dave Longstreth went to Yale to study music. In an interview with the New York Timesmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 , he expresses how dismayed he felt when he saw his peers play video games when they were kids. The inner sleeve of their latest album Bitte Orca has Longstreth staring into the eyes of Nietzsche. In the song "Stillness is the Move," Amber Coffmann sings romantically about one of the ultimate blue collar jobs – a waitress – "Maybe I will get a job / Get a gob as a waitress/ Maybe waiting tables in a diner…" It's the type of "slumming" that Jarvis Cocker savagely destroyed in Pulp's classic class warfare call to arms song "Common People."

If you have a soft spot for independent musicians clawing up from dirt-poor environments and enduring years of living in poverty in broke-down vans, chances are nothing on Bitte Orca will distract you from the swirling Mariah Carey-like vocals from their three singers. You'll wince at Longstreth's Prince-imitating falsetto when he sings "And when it hits the spot, yeah, like Gatorade / You and me baby, hittin' the spot all night."

In short, Longstreth has not made it easy to like Dirty Projectors. Just listening to the album, you have the feeling of listening in at a party where you're neither cool enough nor well-funded enough to attend. But close your eyes and put all the cutesy hipster baggage the band carries aside and chances are that while you may hate Bitte Orca, there will still be a few moments that you can't shake no matter how hard you try. It could be the gorgeous guitar riff Longstreth lays down on "Cannibal Resource" or maybe the band's liberal use of African music beats in "No Intention."

Plenty of people have biases against country club-type indie bands like Vampire Weekend or bands that seem to flaunt their perceived coolness a bit too much (think Animal Collective), and Dirty Projectors without a doubt have a heavy mixture of both. But try not to let this factor in the listening experience of Bitte Orca. It's a frustrating album that somehow dares you to come back for more and rewards with each subsequent listen.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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