Rarely has an album so full of joy and life started in such a sombre way. “The sky has darkened, Earth turned to Hell,” Dirty Projectors’ creative force Dave Longstreth warbles on the opening song, ‘Right Now’. By the end of the song, however, he’s lifted up and is ready to turn a new page: “You pulled me up when you took my hand / There was silence in my heart and now I’m striking up the band.” From bleakness, love has been allowed to blossom.
Consider ‘Lamp Lit Prose’ an emotional reset from their last album, 2017’s self-titled ‘Dirty Projectors’. That album, their first in five years, arrived in difficult circumstances. Longstreth and band member/partner Amber Coffman had combined on some of the group’s most scintillating work – including 2009’s glorious ‘Bitte Orca’ – but by the time work began on last year’s album, Coffman was out of the band and the pair had split up.
The self-titled album was stuffed with pithy and unsubtle jabs from Longstreth (“I don’t know why you abandoned me / You were my soul and my partner” he sung on opener ‘Keep Your Name’), while she refused to be drawn into a slanging match. “I consider it a loss to no longer be involved with Dirty Projectors, but ultimately walking away was the only healthy choice for me,” Coffman said in a statement soon after the album’s release. Her wonderful solo album, ‘City of No Reply’, which was released just months later, was enough of a response.
Thankfully, any lingering feelings of bitterness have quickly thawed on ‘Lamp Lit Prose’, their ninth studio album. ‘Break Thru’ sees Longstreth feeling all giddy while referencing Italian director Federico Fellini: “She’s so dreamy, like she’s got features on Fellini”. On ‘Blue Bird’, love blooms at every opportunity” “The palace Versailles is nice / But if I am honest, I feel just fine on this on this bench with you and me”.
By some way, ‘Lamp Lit Prose’ proves to be the band’s most accessible work to date, and rarely do these vibrant pop songs outstay their welcome. ‘I Feel Energy’, which features rising R&B star Amber Mark, is a horn-stuffed number built for tinnies down the park, while ‘That’s A Lifestyle’ makes for a Beatles-esque moment of wonder. Longstreth’s manic songwriting is thrilling to witness on songs such as the grungy ‘Zombie Conqueror’, if a little exhausting by the time final track ‘(I Wanna) Feel It All’ rolls around.
It’s a marvellous return to form for an act that possesses such unbridled creative energy. We’re glad they’ve been put to joyous use this time round.