Dirty Projectors’ Bitte Orca has been getting some of the best reviews of any release this year. Music site Stereogum asked, “Wait, is Bitte Orca the best album of 2009?” Note the question mark. New York Magazine’s website also seemed puzzled in an article weighing the possibility of the Brooklyn band’s commercial breakthrough. “Are they still too weird?” the writer asked.
And, yes, the Projectors definitely are too weird to have any success with the American Idol crowd. This is, after all, a band that once released a song-for-song reimagining of Black Flag’s album Damaged, even though head Projector Dave Longstreth claimed he had not heard the original in more than a decade. The resulting album sounds more as if he had never heard the album at all. In fact, it sounds more like an improvised jam between an African rockabilly band and an avant-garde string quartet. Longstreth also once released a rock opera about Don Henley. It’s even weirder than his take on Black Flag.
Still, Bitte Orca is, by the standards of experimental indie-rock acts, surprisingly accessible. There’s a bit of faux Afropop guitar and call-and-response vocals for all the Vampire Weekend fans, a lot of unusual vocal harmonies for the Grizzly Bear fans, some dramatic vocalizing for the Antony and the Johnsons fans, and a strong dose of prog-rock weirdness for the rest of the bearded indie-rock crowd. A couple of songs sound almost like modern R&B, albeit very odd R&B. No less an authority than David Byrne described the Projectors as sounding like “pop music by someone who has read about the form but never heard it.”
DIRTY PROJECTORS: The Casbah, Thursday, July 9, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $12 advance; $14 day of show.