Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the atypical union of timeless ballad crooning and philharmonic orchestration. Should anyone object to the marriage of these two beings, speak now or forever hold your peace. I wouldn’t say that I object to The Dirty Projectors newest album, Slaves’ Graves and Ballads, but as a friend, I just need to get some things off my chest!
The first half of this album has an intriguing sound, crafted by the Projector’s vocalist, d-LO Longstreth, who warbles along overtop a nine-person orchestra. It’s like listening to Alice in Wonderland lyrics over an instrumental soundtrack. Imagine Lewis Carroll with a pseudo Jeff Buckley voice singing, “These are the feelings of slaves a-spiraling upward / interior monocots whose rage expressed in slogans / slumps itself fetal back to urn.” Pass the “special” tea, Mr. Hatter! I’d like some more! Though captivating due to it’s polarity of sounds, the vocal and orchestral sounds don’t quite yin and yang with one another. It doesn’t quite fly into your ear and nestle like a tick into a dog’s neck.
The second half of the album, however, becomes much more songwriter oriented and tolerable. Longstreth’s voice is a dichotomy. I love it and I hate it. He shrills from head voice to chest voice repeatedly and while it becomes so irksome I can barely stand it, it somehow seems to work with the rest of the simple, rusty guitar sound. Alone, the musical elements are borderline annoying but combined they create a unique singing/songwriting blend of shrilly vocals and chord arpeggios that are akin to other interesting but enjoyable combos…like oil and vinegar, sex and cigarettes, Sonny and Cher.
This music is repellant, bizarre, enthralling. There, I have said my piece. Now I wish these genres nothing but the best future together and a happy honeymoon!