Published Nov 20, 2020While Dirty Projectors have always essentially been the Dave Longstreth show, it's no secret that it was the project's female members who catapulted them to acclaim. The band's artistic peaks, 2009's Bitte Orca and 2012's Swing Lo Magellan, were in no small part due to bassist/vocalist Angel Deradoorian and guitarist/vocalist Amber Coffman.
Without either of their contributions, Longstreth's latest records have felt somewhat empty, despite being more personal than ever. 5EPs, the 20-song collection that combines the band's 2020 releases, does something to correct this imbalance. Featuring vocals and instrumentation from three new members — Maia Friedman, Felicia Douglass and Kristin Slipp — this new music feels warm and grounded again.
Each four-song EP can be boiled down to a basic defining feature — Friedman-led Windows Open is jaunty and mainly acoustic, Douglass-led Flight Tower is synthetic, Slipp-led Earth Crisis is orchestral, Longstreth-led Super João is soft and acoustic, and closer Ring Road is a slightly broader, full-band experience, taking small elements of everything that preceded.
5EPs is more restrained and serious than Dirty Projectors' Lamp Lit Prose, but their influence is palpable. Flight Tower's R&B rhythms wouldn't make sense without songs like 2017's Dawn Richard-assisted "Cool Your Heart," though nothing here is quite as fun as "Cool Your Heart" — or as goofy as something like "Break Thru."
This is some of the most straight-forward music that Dirty Projectors have ever made; some songs — particularly the gentler moments on Windows Open and Super João — could be described as simple. Even the Björk-esque, latex-warped orchestras of Earth Crisis are clean and streamlined — small nocturnal loops rather than overblown epics.
In allowing others back into the fray and stripping their sound, Longstreth has once again tapped into what made the band so engrossing in the first place. 5EPs feels like a restart, a long and considered exhale. (Domino)