There’s no dearth of quality New York bands these days as recent spirit squads have pointed out, but few have developed their sound into such a unified front of deliberate weirdness as Brooklyn’s Dirty Projectors, who played a sold-out show at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg last night. This six-person experimental band’s approach to music and live performance brings to mind influences like David Byrne, Laurie Anderson and Philip Glass, but the complex soundscapes they’ve created seems to spring from nothing other than their collective creative quirks.
The Dirty Projectors are blessed with a fantastic mix of complementary vocalists. Lead singer and guitarist Dave Longstreth sounds somewhat like Antony Hegarty + testosterone, and he shares the voice-time equally with three female backup vocalists who also take turns singing lead. Check out Amber Coffman fronting the avant tinkerers on “the hit,” the synth-inflected “Stillness is the Move”:
Throughout their set, the DPs brought their hooks and melodies in staccato bursts — spindly, angular guitar riffs phase in and out while choral voices exploded with the force of a geyser, then disappeared just as suddenly.
The highlight of the night was “Useful Chamber,” which touched on a variety of weirdo rockers without ever sounding derivative. The wailing, cathartic background vocals brought to mind the Residents’ God In Three Persons album, while the stomping drums and Television-meets-Troggs guitar work made the audience shimmy and shake as much as is conceivable for music this esoteric.
Which isn’t to say you can’t move your body to their music, it’s simply that the band doesn’t invite the audience to let go. Dirty Projectors are about premeditated artistic expression, and their medium just happens to be music—unlike their borough brethren Animal Collective, who seem music lovers first and artists second. At the end of the night, it was easy to be impressed by this band, but hard to fall in love with them.
Are they too difficult? Too challenging? Nah. They could just use a friendly reminder of why they got into rock & roll in the first place.
More from EW.com’s Music Mix:
The Black Keys take over space radio: Watch Dan Auerbach’s performance exclusively on Music Mix
Jason Segel performs booty call song onstage with Swell Season
New Vampire Weekend video, ‘Cousins’: Watch it here
Peter Gabriel covers Arcade Fire, Radiohead, Regina Spektor: When rock worlds collide