Beloved indie pop band Dirty Projectors is at it again, this time with About to Die, the follow-up EP to their full-length Swing Lo Magellan, which was released in July. About to Die’s concept is derived from the track of the same name off of that wildly successful LP, a song that was a definite highlight both in the past and now in this new collection.
The title track utilizes creative beats that are complemented by gorgeous harmonies, as per usual with Dirty Projectors. However, there is substance to this seemingly lighthearted and carefree tune. Interspersed with the occasional outburst of spoken “hey baby”s and trademark extended “ooohhh”s and “aaaahhh”s, the track appears casual. However, it is evident that the song goes way beyond bouncy pop and into some themes that are undeniably dark, promptly throwing listeners into a twisted fantasy.
Vocalist David Longstreth’s narrator faces nihilistic fears that leave him hopeless and utterly terrified. He opens with “the search has been long and futile and brutal,” and the disturbing yet intriguing lyrics go on: “You’d reach out into the absence and gasping” followed by a gasp. The music continues on lightly, while he darkly states, “The vastness will grasp you like an alien embrace.” “Your life must surely be ending, and trembling. You realized you never lived that day at all,” Longstreth’s nightmarish musings continue.
Hearing these heavy lyrics put so bubbly sends shivers down your spine. However, throwing the audience off his paranoid path, Longstreth jubilantly exclaims during the chorus, “Where would I ever be without you?” triggering the group to burst into repetition of the line “I’m about to die!” The chorus makes the song come off as happy-go-lucky, while the band floats on the surface of the song’s inherent darkness.
While the entire EP is impressively complex and has nuanced changes — though they are occasionally overtly direct — the shortest track, “While You’re Here,” takes a very different turn. Sadly, the song’s minimalist attack feels weak and misplaced on the EP. The track is somehow melodramatic in its attempted stripped-down baroque nature, and in general, “While You’re Here” is inherently contradictory. It is a brash bedtime tune, which is not only a unique concept for the EP, but for all of Dirty Projectors’ discography.
Although a tad cryptic, the song does possess a certain charm and haunting quality. Longstreth’s scratchy voice muses on, “The sun is shining / the sky is vibrant / my friend is rising and shining again,” and later “While you are here, you are alive.” While there is still an eerie ghostly presence, the more optimistic track does ofter a juxtaposition to the opener, “About to Die.”
One of the highlights of this short-but-sweet EP is the mellow yet engaging “Simple Request.” Once again, the audience is struck by the song’s intricate charm. “I want to know where you are right now,” Longstreth gently ponders. He continues his questioning with ease, but there is a touch of tension and desperation in his voice — once again, apropos for the Dirty Projector style. “I wonder why / and I wonder what / I wonder how,” he muses, revealing his mildly obsessive thoughts. The chorus pours out bold statements, which contradict the idea of a “Simple Request.” “Never will we give up / never will we tell,” he repeats. Not so simple after all.
“Here Til It Says I’m Not” features crushing processions that intertwine with chill melodies to create a multifaceted music experience before ending in a sweeping crescendo, which is still joyously DP-trademark-approved. There is distinct passion in this song that makes a beautiful arch. This is due to the complex music composition, which utilizes the rest of the group’s impressive harmonies. Dirty Projectors’ music and distinct stories add up to a complete cathartic trail.
The song opens with the line “No one stands point guard to the void / without getting destroyed,” and we soon see it is a story of a criminal arrest — lightly carrying on the album’s theme of hopelessness and destruction. The chorus belts, “Hey! Put your hands behind your head where I can see!” “You invest power in your side / what you’ve done sends shivers in the darkness of its black light” follows, and after that, the characters face the repercussions. Longstreth oozes the line, “The handcuffs chafe against the wrists,” then “Aren’t we here until it says that we’re not?”
Through channeling different levels of the same pseudo-nihilistic music behind beautiful swirling and enthusiastic rhythms, the familiar voices pushed out a surprisingly comprehensive and complex EP, which arrived impressively soon after Dirty Projector’s beloved summer album. A great feat, indeed.
Dirty Projectors Tour Dates:
11/12 – Los Angeles, CA — Hollywood Bowl
11/30 – Sao Paulo, Brazil — Cine Joia
12/02 – Buenos Aires, Argentina — Personal Festival
01/11 – New York, NY — Carnegie Hall
01/18 – Hobart, Australia — Mona Foma
01/19 – Melbourne, Australia – Sugar Mountain Festival
01/21 – Sydney, Australia — Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House
01/23 – Aukland, New Zealand — The Kings Arms
01/24 – Wellington, New Zealand — San Francisco Bath House
For more info: