Smile Politely

Dirty Projectors deliver satisfying doses of the sweet and the soulful

Dirty Projectors will steal you away on Friday night. Their songs are ripe with choruses of sweet, songbird-like vocals that swirl around sometimes soft, sometimes boisterous, riffs; I always seem to fall prey to the band’s intoxicating sound. Their pop tunes make me smile, and their ballads make me swoon. And to top it all off, this band’s live performance is inescapably fun and totally commanding. With all that potent emotion being pumped into your ears, it’s hard not to lend your heart to the sound. I have a feeling that the crowd at this Pygmalion headliner’s show will be pulsing with nothing but grooving bodies and smiles.

An undeniable highlight of this year’s Pygmalion Music Festival lineup, this indie-rock band will perform in downtown Urbana on Friday, Sept. 28. The outdoor stage will be set up at 203 N. Broadway Ave. in the parking lot just north of Black Dog Smoke and Ale House. Even more special, this new location is a Pygmalion first. The band will go on at 8:45 p.m. and play until 10 p.m. Trust me, you’ll want to catch the whole set.

Dirty Projectors is the brainchild of Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter David Longstreth. Though the band has always had a fluctuating lineup, Longstreth has consistently served as the backbone of the project. His first album under the moniker Dirty Projectors, The Glad Fact, came out in 2003. Since then, his crew of players has gradually adjusted with each album, bringing a slight change in sound and experimentation with each renewal.

Dave Longstreth and Amber Coffman

Though Dirty Projectors has been putting out indie-rock records for nearly a decade, the band’s breakthrough album, Bitte Orca, released in 2009, really launched them into a state of mainstream appreciation. Not only that, but it revealed a solidified lineup that seemed to fill out the band’s sound in a brand new way. The album showcased a lovely trio of female vocalists: Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, and Haley Dekle, that so perfectly supported Longstreth’s soulful tone. The band’s versatility really came through on the record, too. Each song boasted a different eclectic vibe, be it poppy, progressive, or straight rock. More progressive hits like “Cannibal Resource,” with its tribal-esque popping harmonies, and the climactic “Temecula Sunrise” were balanced by honey-covered slow jams like “No Intention,” peppered with a staccato guitar part, and the blush-inducing ballad, “Two Doves.”

Dirty Projectors’ most recent full-length release dropped this past summer. Swing Lo Magellan has been received with much praise, garnering reviews that note the album as a worthy follow-up to Bitte Orca. The vibe of the record is a bit dancey, as most of the new tracks are very percussively driven. The opening track of the new album, “Offspring Are Blank,” exhibits all of Dirty Projectors’ signature elements: subtle and enchanting female vocals, Longstreth’s emotive, coo and a fantastic rock riff. Other tracks like “About to Die” and “Dance for You” are more subdued and pop infused. But the title track has to be one of my favorites. “Swing Lo Magellan” is a low-key lullaby that features simple percussion and acoustic guitar, bolstered by Longstreth’s sweet croon. The tune is a bit gentler than some of the band’s other hits. Still, it definitely stands out.

Sometimes it’s hard for a piece of music to dole out equally satisfying doses of sweetness and soulfulness. But you won’t have to settle for one or the other with Dirty Projectors. Eclectic guitar and drum sounds lay the foundation, while more than half of the band’s members lend their voices to the mix, making for some incredibly dreamy harmonies. Having had the pleasure of seeing Dirty Projectors live this past summer, I know that their talent isn’t just present on the records. Dirty Projectors’ live show is simple in exhibition, but on-point in execution. The band’s harmonies are ever present and strong in performance. Not only that, but the energy on-stage is abundant and sincere. Come to this show ready for a commanding performance of some beautiful, unique tunes.

Dirty Projectors perfom Friday, Sept. 28 in Downtown Urbana at 9:00 p.m., with opening acts My Werewolf Diary, Elsinore, and Tennis.

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