Dirty Projectors Find Hope Again on 'Lamp Lit Prose'

Dirty Projectors Find Hope Again on 'Lamp Lit Prose'
Photo: Jason Frank Rothenberg
Dirty Projectors' new album, Lamp Lit Prose, comes just 18 months after their last year's Dirty Projectors. The quick turnaround — a five-year gap separated 2012's Swing Lo Magellan and Dirty Projectors — was the result of group mastermind and sole constant David Longstreth opting not to tour last year. Instead, he stayed home and just made more music.
Hitting the road in support of a single album — a process that can take years — can burn you out creatively, he says. "When it's finally time to make some more songs, you're just kind of like, 'Oh, God whatever that was, I've got to do the complete opposite,'" he tells Exclaim! "I've got to throw away the manual and start from nothing."
Staying home allowed Longstreth to continue to pursue his muse wherever it took him. "I was just in a flow in the studio, putting down new ideas." The result is an album that "synthesizes a lot of the different musical threads that I've been working on for a long time," be it beat-making, string and brass arrangements or multi-part vocal harmonies. "It's kind of pulling them all together."
Despite the proximity of their release dates Dirty Projectors and Lamp Lit Prose couldn't be more different. In fact, Longstreth cautions against even viewing them in relation to one another. "[Dirty Projectors] has an emotional arc that goes from heartbreak and sadness and works its way towards forgiveness and reconciliation," he says. Lamp Lit Prose, on the other hand, "is really about feeling hope again, finding the things that give us hope, that make us feel optimistic and joyful."
Emphasizing that joy are Longstreth's West African-influenced guitar riffs, largely absent from Dirty Projectors. He notes that at least half of that record's songs did have guitar on them, but never at the forefront. "I didn't have anything to say on the guitar." Meanwhile, much of Lamp Lit Prose originated on the instrument. "I was playing it again and having fun making stuff up."
Longstreth has already had Dirty Projectors on the road for the past couple of months, with more dates scheduled throughout the summer. This newly constituted version of the band includes long-time members Nat Baldwin and Mike Johnson, as well as new members Felicia Douglass, Maia Friedman and Kristin Slipp. "You can build four-part harmonies [where] everyone is doing double duty as a vocalist and as an instrumentalist," he says of the six-piece live configuration he's employed for the past decade. "It's the most compact version of an ensemble that can render the kind of arrangements that I make really well."
Dirty Projectors play Vancouver on June 22 and Calgary on June 23; find the rest of their remaining tour dates here.
Lamp Lit Prose comes out July 13 on Domino.