HughShows would like to welcome contributing music journalist Jill Berkin to the fold. A a UK-based writer who was able to travel quite a lot before the pandemic and has had an awesome experience with the people and places while visiting Pittsburgh. As an avid music enthusiast, she’s interested in shoegaze, rock, and alternative music. I couldn’t be more thrilled in highlighting her wonderful work on the blog.
Dirty Projectors have been indie rock mainstays since they launched their debut album The Glad Fact back in 2003. Here in Pittsburgh, we were witness to the group’s musical prowess when they played a stellar show in May 2018. As that concert proved, the band is still lauded as one of the best groups in the industry as they continue to push boundaries with their unique and experimental brand of music.
2018’s Lamp Lit Prose is a great example of this, as the band really leaned into their eccentricity by using the Critter & Guitari Pocket Piano and other synths to create a sonic hodgepodge of melodies and sounds that only a creative force like them could have successfully pulled off. Experimentation is part of the reason why Dirty Projectors are so great, which is why it isn’t surprising that they continue to redefine their sound with each new project.
The band’s latest release, Super João, is yet another testament to how playful the band can be with their sound. Settling is seemingly not a part of their plans, as they’ve yet again delivered a unique musical experience packaged with the four tracks of this EP. If you want to know more about this, read on for our review of Dirty Projectors’ Super João!
Five EP Cycle and Super João
Before we jump into the review, it’s important to give a little background information on this EP. Rolling Stone’s article on the EP’s announcement details that Super João is the third EP of the group’s five-EP cycle for 2020. And just like their last project, Flight Tower which drifted towards an uncharacteristic R&B sound, the group has also decided to try a different approach with this record.
The group has gone a more minimalist route with this EP, as they’ve really reeled in the sound. They’ve opted to swap out the multitude of different instruments that they usually use for a barer setup, as the songs on the EP are driven solely by a nylon-string acoustic guitar. This shouldn’t be too surprising as the namesake for the EP, João Gilberto, pioneered the Brazilian bossa nova movement. This is put front and center in “I Get Carried Away”, as the rhythmic plucking style sounds like it was transposed directly from Gilberto’s “Insensatez”.
Another key difference with this EP comes in the form of the vocals. Unlike the previous EPs in the cycle, David Longstreth is the sole vocalist on this project. And while it’s been great to hear the other members of the band singing, Longstreth’s performance on the album is one for the ages. Indeed, the Shure SM7B’s impeccable sound clarity is on full display as it brings out the natural elements of a Longstreth’s voice. Longstreth’s vocal chops are on full display right off the bat in the EP’s first track “Holy Mackerel”. Longstreth serenades the listener and preps them for what’s to come, as this may not be what people expected from a Dirty Projectors record.
Bands are often castigated for veering off the path that their listeners and fans have put them on. However, Dirty Projectors have made a career of perpetually redefining themselves and constantly trying new things. This latest EP is no exception to this. And while it could come off as gimmicky, this project is a testament to the group’s deep admiration and respect for different types and genres of music. Super João is a love letter to a proud genre, a worthy addition to the group’s body of work.
Written for hughshows.com by Jill Birken