City of No Reply
Usually when a band member splits from the group where they made their name, speculation runs rampant. Then, when the inevitable solo album appears, fans scour the body of work for hidden messages of animosity.
It would be easy to lump Amber Coffman’s solo debut in that grouping—particularly given the narrative that surrounded Dirty Projectors’ self-titled album from earlier this year. But to reduce Coffman’s life to the drama surrounding her artistic and romantic decoupling from Dave Longstreth would be an insult to the larger personal journey she explores on City of No Reply.
Life after the Dirty Projectors has been kind to Coffman. Her harmonies and vocal prowess caught the attention of many outside of indie rock. She’s been featured on tracks from Major Lazer, J. Cole, and Frank Ocean; going beyond what she was known for with the Dirty Projectors isn’t as much of a stretch as some might infer.
Recorded over the span of two years, partially with none other than Longstreth himself, the album explores what it takes to move on while staying within yourself. Blending elements of pop, blues, and R&B, City of No Reply manages to explore various sounds while remaining true to Coffman’s songwriting strengths. The warmth of her voice remains the focal point, as do her soberingly sincere lyrics. In particular, the rustic, soulful simplicity of “No Coffee” segues into the electronic-driven “Dark Night” before the title track whisks you away with its bouncy pop.
Coffman has mentioned that the record is a reflection about living with yourself rather than settling grudges. Unlike other post-breakup solo albums, City of No Reply doesn’t allow itself to get trapped trying to find an identity. The singer/songwriter’s ambitious fusion and arrangement of songs comprised of different genres isn’t so much a step forward as it is a statement of intent. She’s expressed her disappointment about how things ended with the Dirty Projectors in interviews, and in a sense, this album’s theme of moving on is poignant. If this record is any indication of what’s to come, it’d be wise to follow along.