“Sometimes they sound like they’re playing two different songs at the same time.”
That’s how one concert-goer explained to me her experience with Dirty Projectors Wednesday night at the Granada in Lawrence.
And it’s kind of true.
The Brooklyn-based, experimental indie rock band has certainly never taken a page out of the songwriter’s handbook in crafting their intricate, and at times, off-putting tunes. And I’m guessing they wouldn’t be caught dead rhyming a lyric or doing the typical verse-verse-chorus-bridge thing, either.
Nope. Dirty Projectors pave their own musical way with unusual three and four part vocal harmonies that sometimes come blasting out at the audience like a warning siren. And plenty of hand claps, but not the Kid Rock kind. The three part, complicated, syncopated kind.
A decent mid-week crowd half-filled the venue to witness the unconventional Projectors, along with opener Wye Oak, a folky duo that includes some dreamy atmospheric synth. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it in time to catch their set.
I walked into the room just as the Projectors were starting with Dance for You, followed by Offspring are Blank, the first track off the just-released – and critically acclaimed – Swing Lo Magellan.
Immediately, the most impressive and noticeable thing was the three female vocalists bathing the Granada in a sort of atonal glow. They sounded crisp and clean, almost to the point of robotocism.
That’s a word, trust me.
It was cool because they weren’t effects-heavy or electronically filtered or auto-tuned. It just sounded that way.
The crowd responded in typical scenester fashion – with little movement other than a few head bobs, a couple of hoots, and then enthusiastic applause at the conclusion of each song.
Hey, this ain’t exactly booty-shaking music.
Like I intimated above, it’s a little challenging. But after listening to their records I must say that their live show definitely holds up, and even surpasses their studio efforts.
The band was sharp, as they have to be to produce the twists and turns so flawlessly. I can’t imagine the time and effort they put into honing their live performances, but they made it look easy on this night.
Lead singer David Longstreth’s elastic vocals stretched and bended, but never broke. Midway through the set they slowed things down and simplified a little with the sweet and mellow title track, Swing Lo Magellan, a song that sounds like it belongs in a Wes Anderson movie.
Their sound reminded me a bit of St. Vincent mixed with (follow me now) what I imagine would’ve happened if now-defunct Lawrence band Jen Say Kwahs would’ve stuck together a bit longer, but with bassist Jeff Milberger calling all the shots.
Too local a reference? Maybe so, but that’s what came to mind.
The song after Swing Lo was probably the highlight for me, the percussive and cool About to Die, followed by several more new ones, The Socialites, Gun Has No Trigger, and See what She Seeing.
The Projectors finished out their set and emerged eagerly for a quick encore that featured probably their most popular tune, Stillness is the Move. Amber Coffman’s higher than high, Mariah Carey-esque vocals set off a somewhat complacent crowd and garnered the biggest ovation of the night before the band thanked Lawrence and disappeared into the night.
Dance For You
Offspring Are Blank
Just From Chevron
Swing Lo Magellan
About to Die
Gun Has No Trigger
See What She Seeing
Maybe That Was It
Stillness Is The Move