How I Learned To Love The Dirty Projectors

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Jason Frank Rothenberg
When Dirty Projectors' 2009 album Bitte Orca was released, it was treated as the second coming. Of course, there seems to be a new Album of the Decade crowned on a yearly basis. Even though I write about music on a regular basis for multiple outlets, I get annoyed with the publicity or hype that certain albums from bands receive in this blog-dominated age. In the past, it has probably driven me away from certain artists too easily.

Upon Bitte Orca's release, it seemed anyone who wrote or spoke about the album couldn't make up enough good things to say. Finicky sites such as Pitchfork and The Onion's A.V. Club provided the album as many digital reach-arounds as their virtual hands could muster. The incessant praise struck a negative tone with me, and after a few spins, I dismissed it.

Of course, I was in the minority when it came to the end-of-year lists. I was the contrarian with a smug sense of self I "earned" by not being a drone to the vintage tee-wearing 19-year-olds that 30-plus-year-old music writers wished they still were. I'm one convincing mother when it comes to talking to myself. That defined my outlook on the Dirty Projectors until I sat down and listened to their latest album, Swing Lo Magellan.

Common sense is sometimes too common and can be overlooked with ease. A band that takes formulas and arrangements, disassembles them and reconfigures them in an inventive way should be welcomed, not snubbed almost automatically for being everything that formulaic isn't. Unsurprisingly, the latest LP is again garnering raves, and Dave Longstreth and crew have found a way to confound while not being the pseudo-complicated dicks I made them out to be in 2009. The album's shape-shifting tunes challenge and thrill, and remind me of an album I hadn't heard in years. I think that album was called Bitte Orca.

The Dirty Projectors and Wye Oak perform Friday, August 3, at the Kessler Theater in Dallas.
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