Lamp Lit Prose
David Longstreth’s breakup with longtime bandmate and girlfriend Amber Coffman led him down a dismal route; he infused genres like electronica and R&B in last year’s self-titled Dirty Projectors album to convey the darkness he felt shrouded in. Fast-forward one year, and it seems Longstreth is feeling better. The new Dirty Projectors album, Lamp Lit Prose, finds him more elated, though his positivity doesn’t always result in musical vitality.
For Lamp Lit Prose, Longstreth has gone acoustic again, and the guitar work is the record’s greatest strength. His style is both melodic and idiosyncratic—it frequently feels out of tempo, delving into odd abstractions—but this unpredictability makes the album all the more engaging. “That’s a Lifestyle” is the best example, as Longstreth’s one-string guitar hooks harmonize with and complement each other. The myriad features are another highlight: Amber Mark’s vocal performance on “I Feel Energy” is mesmerizing against the song’s percussive backdrop, and Robin Pecknold’s folksy timbre on “You’re the One” is warm and soothing.
But despite its charming songwriting tricks, Lamp Lit Prose leaves you ambivalent. Collectively, it feels somewhat flat and not nearly as cutting-edge as Dirty Projectors’ previous releases. On a lyrical level, the album is at times cringe-y (“She keeps it 100 in the shade”) or laden with metaphors that feel overly ambiguous (“Leave the spoon-lit champion”). The result is an emotional disconnect.
Lamp Lit Prose’s closer, however, diverges from the ebullience of the previous nine tracks. “(I Wanna) Feel it All” harkens back to Dirty Projectors’ earlier, more experimental material, ostracized from the rest of this album. Longstreth’s latest endeavor is superficially, temporarily enjoyable—but it disappoints all the same.