Dirty Projectors

'Bitte Orca' (Domino Records)

For many people, summer is a period of relaxation and resting on one’s laurels after a year of hard work. For others, it is a chance to ambitiously push ahead and surpass previous achievements, no matter how remarkable those might have been. On the evidence of “Bitte Orca,” Dirty Projectors clearly belong to the latter camp.

Having achieved a reputation as a talented but difficult to love band, the Projectors have finally settled down after nearly 10 years together and have made a thoroughly enjoyable and accessible album. Released in June, “Bitte Orca” is an album so richly textured and joyous that it succeeds as both a mainstream crossover and as a natural development for an artistically restless group.

From the moment lead single “Stillness Is the Move” dropped, it was clear that Dirty Projectors were moving into new and exciting territory. The song sounds like nothing else the band has ever done before, bordering on mainstream R&B. Lead singer and songwriter Dave Longstreth restricts himself to just playing guitar and handing the vocals over to the dulcet voice of Amber Coffman. It is conventional in structure and features delightfully innocent lyrics—“From now until forever, baby / I can’t imagine anything better”—that make it a perfect anthem for separated lovers.

Once the album itself was released, it became clear that the promise of “Stillness Is the Move” was just a sign of the myriad pleasures the album itself would contain. Opener “Cannibal Resource” introduces many of the elements that will feature throughout; precise guitar licks, beautiful female harmonizing, and handclaps combine to form a tight and mesmerizing whole. Album centerpiece “Useful Chamber” is another highlight. The LP’s most adventurous track, it effortlessly shifts intensity from its comfortable opening groove through violent rock outbursts and back again several times.

As invigorating as the rock tracks are, the slower, more romantic tracks on “Bitte Orca” truly amaze. Following immediately after “Stillness Is the Move,” “Two Doves” is the flip-side to its predecessor’s irrepressible optimism. The romanticism is still there—“Your love, better than wine”—but now it is tinged with harsh reality: “But our bed is like a failure.” While the song is far from hopeless, it adds depth and pathos to the bliss of “Stillness Is the Move.”

Though the quality diminishes slightly in the last couple of songs, “Bitte Orca” is a fascinating statement from a band that had seemed reluctant to focus their talents on straight-forward songcraft rather than the hit-or-miss tendencies of experimental rock. “There is nothing we can’t do,” declare the lovers in “Stillness Is The Move,” and it seems that, for Dirty Projectors, the same holds true.

—Staff writer Chris R. Kingston can be reached at