While Dirty Projectors mastermind David Longstreth has said the band’s seventh album isn’t entirely autobiographical, it’s driven by his breakup with former bandmate Amber Coffman. The concept isn’t all that alluring: an ex-boyfriend’s account of a public separation doesn’t sound like what the world needs in 2017. Luckily, it’s not a typical breakup album. Over lush, sprawling production, Longstreth meticulously crafts a starkly honest account of a fall from grace and a rise back into it that embraces growth and forgiveness.
That sounds mature, though Dirty Projectors don’t shy away from the ugly bits. Keep Your Name begins with wedding bells morphing into glitchy scraping noise, and Longstreth spits, “I don’t think I ever loved you.” Eventually he follows it up with the lowest blow on the album: “What I want from art is truth / what you want is fame.” Death Spiral, a ferocious and aggressive slice of R&B, is built as much to knock you off-kilter as to mesmerize. Up In Hudson devastates – packed with horns and spellbinding melodies, it asserts that “love will burn out and love will just fade away.”
The album’s middle recreates that post-breakup feeling of running in place, but in the transcendent third act, beginning with the posi vibes pop of Ascent Through Clouds, the sun shines through. The new peace of mind never sounds boring, and it isn’t arrived at selfishly. Comfort comes via the groove-heavy Cool Your Heart, co-written by Solange, while the gorgeous organ swells and soulful vocals of I See You bring resolution: the protagonist finally sees his ex as she truly is, allowing him to grow and move forward.
Top track: Up In Hudson