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10 Best Dirty Projectors Songs

Roger Kisby, Getty Images

Coming up with a list of the 10 best Dirty Projectors songs is a bit of daunting task. Dave Longstreth, the musician and songwriter behind this New York band’s creative output, is a man of eclectic tastes, and there’s an astounding variety of unique tracks to choose from. The experimental indie group excels at weaving unusual time signatures, intricate percussive and vocal rhythms and haunting melodies into complicated tapestries of musical goodness, and as such, they’re hard to pin down. Nevertheless, we’re going to give it a try. Scroll down to see our picks for the Projectors’ finest.


getty
10

'I Will Truck '

From: 'The Getty Address' (2005)
 
 

‘I Will Truck’ starts out with a crescendo of snaps and light percussion. Dave Longstreth then lays his vocals over the roof of this stripped down rhythmic track, accompanied by a smattering of female voices and ping-ponging strings and horns scattered across the framework of the song. ‘The Getty Address,’ which is an operatic take on modern America — with a protagonist named Don Henley, of all people — was a project incubating in Longstreth’s mind for quite some time. The eventual result became this imaginative collection of distinctive tunes.

 
rise
9

'Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie'

From: 'Rise Above' (2007)
 
 

‘Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie’ is a quirky cover by the Dirty Projectors. And no, it’s not a cover of the ABBA pop anthem going by the same name. This ‘Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie’ is a much gentler version of Black Flag’s blazing hard rock original. The album ‘Rise Above,” in fact, is chock-full of reimagined Black Flag tracks. Since the band didn’t waste time listening to Black Flag’s ‘Damaged’ before heading into recording studio, the songs stray considerably from the originals, which makes them such a refreshing joy to listen to. This definitely isn’t a compilation of slightly rehashed covers — it’s an incredibly original piece of musical art.

 
fire
8

'There’s a Fire'

From: 'Offspring Are Blank' (2012)
 
 

‘There’s a Fire’ is the B-side track for the single release ‘Offspring Are Blank,' which comes from the band’s critically acclaimed album ‘Swing Lo Magellan.’ This limited edition single, recorded at Carnegie Hall, is a potpourri of Dirty Projector rhythmic tendencies laid out in fairly straightforward fashion, and crafted into one of the best B-sides you’ll ever come across. The song has a raw, happy component to it, given extra life with the paradoxically precise, yet loosey-goosey feeling female vocals that kick in at the end.

 
dark
7

'Knotty Pine'

From: 'Dark Was the Night' (2009)
 
 

The Red Hot Organization’s charity album ‘Dark Was the Night’ features a stunning collaboration between David Byrne and the Dirty Projectors. This track pops from beginning to end, infused with musical clarity and staccato energy. The upbeat vibe is brought to the forefront with bouncy piano and acoustic guitar work, accented at the close of the song by David Byrne’s slip and slide electric guitar riffs. Amber Coffman gets this infectious tune off to a colorful start with the lyrics “Here is the sound that photographs make / When I see them / When I hear them / I see regions of sharp precision / Over abundance / Over indulgence.”

 
Orca
6

'The Bride'

From: 'Bitte Orca' (2009)
 
 

‘The Bride’ is the shortest track in duration on 'Bitte Orca,' but that doesn’t stop it from making its presence known. Amber Coffman, Haley Dekle and Olga Bel add wonderful background vocals to this tender melody, which is punctuated by radical tonal shifts and a thump of electricity in the guitar department now and again. The overall effect is a very folky sounding tune that’s occasionally spiked with some amplified, six-string battery acid.

 
Wittenberg
5

'On and Ever Onward'

From: 'Mount Wittenberg Orca' (2010)
 
 

‘Mount Wittenberg Orca’ is an EP about whales, mostly, recorded at a Housing Works thrift store in New York. While this EP is rawer, and not as musically elaborate as other Dirty Projectors projects, the pairing with Björk makes for an extremely enjoyable, free-flowing compilation of songs. ‘On and Ever Onward’ is a short and blissful tune rolling across the rhythmic vocal gymnastics of Amber Coffman and company, interlaced with Björk’s surprisingly (on this song) understated pop sensibilities.

 
swing
4

'Gun Has No Trigger'

From: 'Swing Lo Magellan' (2012)
 
 

Light drums and some soothing and ethereal ‘oohs’ coming from the ladies signals the beginning of ‘Gun Has No Trigger.’ The auditory landscapes of this track are fairly desolate as far as a typical Dirty Projectors tune goes. Even so, idiosyncrasies flourish in the form of Dave Longstreth's mournful voice, which stretches across the simple drumbeats, as well as the backing vocals that rise in strength at precise moments, peppered throughout this stark piece of songwriting.

 
Orca
3

'Two Doves'

From: 'Bitte Orca' (2009)
 
 

‘Two Doves’ is a lovely ditty with a refreshing touch of acoustic guitar, delicate strings and sweet vocal melodies. The most surprising thing about this song is that it doesn’t have any surprising time changes or instrumentation hidden deeper inside the track. Amber Coffman’s gentle voice, tinged with melancholy, is the true star of this quiet little gem. “For your love, better than wine / For your cologne is really fragrant / Call on me, call on me, call on me.”

 
swing
2

'About to Die'

From: 'Swing Lo Magellan' (2012)
 
 

Get ready for some polyrhythm funk with ‘About to Die.’ This soulful jam is the perfect showcase for the band’s true talent. Bantering harmonies, plucky percussion and a fairy uplifting vibe (considering the title and lyrical content) define this archetypal Dirty Projectors ditty. Don't’ worry, it’s not as grim as you might think. ‘About to Die’ is about the terrible feelings that come after a hard breakup. And in an ironical twist, listening to this expertly crafted tune might actually help mend a wounded heart.

 
still
1

'Stillness Is the Move'

From: 'Bitte Orca' (2009)
 
 

‘Stillness Is the Move’ is arguably the band’s biggest hit — according to fan popularity, at least. It's a great song, and unlike much of the collective’s creative output, this tune really feels like a single destined to climb the charts. Folks who hate anything that smacks of “popularity” might disapprove , but that doesn’t mean ‘Stillness Is the Move’ isn’t worth listening to. Coffman’s voice rocks along this blues and groove oriented track, backed up by female power and tribal rhythms, creating one of the most unique sounding radio friendly songs ever recorded by the Dirty Projectors.

 

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