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Coachella 2010: Vocal dazzle of Dirty Projectors and Corinne Bailey Rae

April 17, 2010 |  9:49 pm

Corinne In the family of rock, the guitar often gets all the attention. But when the voice is beautiful, when the voice is exquisite and playful and heavenly, well, you may as well put that ax down and let the vocals ring out. 

The Dirty Projectors, the Brooklyn experimental alchemists, ran through so many vocal styles, it turned into aural montage -- warped barbershop quartet harmonies, R&B quivery soul, stylin’ jazz like Donald Fagen and vocal runs that would make Simon Cowell’s spiky hair shoot up a little higher. Watching in the back, Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend appeared to be enjoying it -- and, amazingly true to stereotype, Mr. Columbia University graduate actually had a sweater around his shoulders, knotted on his chest preppie-style. 

The vocal tricks were underscored by tight, fruity bursts of picked lead guitar and shifty, downbeat rhythms. Frontman Dave Longstreth dedicated a few songs to neighboring locales -- Palmdale, Anza-Borrego and Salton Sea. As evident on their latest album, “Bitte Orca,” sometimes so many ideas raced by, it was hard to get a purchase on any singular thread. It’s best to enjoy Dirty Projectors as a passionate steeplechase through musical theory, but one you can grab the mane of and ride along with.

A step into Corinne Bailey Rae’s set in the Gobi tent revealed that she was up to the same thing, though in her own laid-back, soothing way. Her new album, “The Sea,” a creative working-out of grief after the sudden death of her husband Jason Rae, proves that Corinne knows how to pour emotion into her voice. She closed with the Doris Day classic “Que Sera, Sera,” kicking it off with lush a capella assisted by her wonderful backing band. Together, they let it crest and wash out as a soulful embrace of life’s bitter valleys and majestic highs.    

-- Margaret Wappler

Photo: Musician Corinne Bailey Rae performs during day two of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival 2010 held at the Empire Polo Club on April 17, 2010 in Indio, California. Credit:  Anna Webber/Getty Images