Who: Dirty Projectors
From: Brooklyn, New York
Reason to care: One of indie pop's most fertile streams connects formal composition techniques to the do-it-yourself practices of the underground. The Dirty Projectors are big fish in that water. The band is really a chamber ensemble performing the works of Dave Longstreth, a Yale music school graduate who's also a self-taught expert in Dylan and John Coltrane. Longstreth translates his knowledge of harmonic theory and rock's rougher magic into songs that are beautifully tangled up and always mutating. There are runaway melodic lines, female voices in modal counterpoint, and rhythms that run from Africa to Williamsburg. Listening to Dirty Projectors is like watching a spooky animated film like "Coraline," or reading Lydia Davis' short short stories: enchanting, disturbing, impossible to forget.
Listen: Matthew Lessner's curious video for "Stillness is the Move" plays on two sides of the band. The pastoral setting and Robin Hood outfits highlight the elements that connect to old forms -- that madrigal feeling. But the choreography in which Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian and Haley Dekle indulge is pure girl group, connecting to the song's Motown tinge, which may have been what atttracted Solange Knowles to it (Beyonce's sis covered it last year.)
Fun Fact: The women singers in Dirty Projectors learn Longstreth's convoluted, stop-start harmony parts by ear. “Usually, Dave sits down with the three of us and will teach us the parts individually,” Coffman said in a recent interview . “It takes hours and hours to remember some of the stuff."
-- Ann Powers