If you've never heard The Dirty Projectors before The Getty Address, you may want to grab their (or his rather, as the main person behind the group is youngster Dave Longstreth) debut The Glad Fact, a lo-fi gem that hooks you with raw instrumentation, beautifully expressive lyrics, and the raw voice of Longstreth that seemed to hold some sort of minor hypnotic power. Even if you've heard the ambitious second album Slaves' Graves & Ballads, I still don't think you're going to be quite prepared for this newest release. I know I wasn't.
The first idea for this release apparently hit the brain of Longstreth over two years ago, and in the following 50 months he pulled together the various threads of ideas he had both musically and lyrically into this sprawling opus. In terms of narrative, the album is inspired by Aztec mythology, the Eagles (yes, the musical group), and the aftermath of 9/11 while musically the album was recorded in three different states and features contributions from over twenty-five people. Oh yeah, and the whole thing was deconstructed after it was recorded and then put back together from the ground up.
If the above explanation sounds bizarre, rest assured that the album holds up its end of the promise. "I Sit On The Ridge At Dusk" and a woman's choir mingles with glitchy cowbell, some thumping percussion, while Longstreth narrates things vocally as a person who sounds like their just getting ready to start their journey. "But In The Headlights" is all horns and junk-box percussion while "Warholian Whigs" finds a wind septet mingling with cut-up chimes and percussion while quick fragments of acoustic guitar fall into the mix. The thing is a shambling beast that sounds like a high-school band run through a blender, yet Longstreth pulls it together with his vague wordplay and almost howling vocals.
"D. Henley's Dream" is an eerie track haunted by glass flutes, a women's choir, and drifting woodwind melodies while "Not Having Found" shudders along with deep low-end hits, loads of beautiful wind instrument melodies, and loops of choir while Longstreth adds his world-weary vocals to it all. The result is an absolutely bizarre musical hybrid that works quite well and is one of the strongest tracks on the entire release. "Jolly Jolly Jolly Ego" uses some of the same musical elements, but puts them together in an entirely different way, making the track sound something like a haunted alternative-universe Cole Porter track.
As one might guess The Getty Address is not a super-easy listen. Although there is a huge number of musicians involved in the release, interestingly enough Longstreth has managed to keep things fairly stripped-down and managed at most times, allowing a place for his vocals without the tracks getting overly cluttered. At the same time, though, there is so much going on in the thirteen tracks and just under an hour of music on the release that it really does take some time to digest. Lyrically, the themes aforementioned above all creep into different tracks, yet their relations to one another are kept somewhat vague and mainly the three seem to just sort of hinge together on a loose theme of empires (the Aztecs literally, the Eagles somewhat figuratively, and 9/11 viewed as sort of the weakness of). It's an album that's not quite always successful, but it's a hell of an ambitious project and marks the only twenty-three year old Longstreth as a young artist who has definitely arrived (and is currently doing laps around others his same age who garner more ink).