Review: Bitte Orca by Dirty Projectors

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Rating: 10/10

Not too long ago, I made some pretty outlandish claims about the awesomeness of Grizzly Bear.  A few months before that, Pitchfork made some insane claims about Animal Collective.  With such heavyweights out there, it would seem that the album-of-the-year talk would be very heated between these two bands.  Well folks, it’s time to introduce a new player in that same conversation.

I had never listened to Dirty Projectors before, so the various accolades thrown to Bitte Orca were a bit surprising to me.  But, with all the good press came a reason to find out what the deal was.

Bitte Orca gets to you by knocking your ears around.  It starts with the mutating rhythms of “Cannibal Resource.”  The beat never finds an exact place to lock in.  Instead, it shifts and attaches to the particular ideas found throughout the song.  The distinctive lyrics further weave in and out, constantly impressing with harmonic females cooing and the confident lead male voice selling a tale about “the arbitrary life.”

The leadoff track is very indicative of the rest of Bitte Orca: it will keep you guessing and on your toes.  A quiet acoustic piece is suddenly turned wild with a single cymbal crash in “Temecula Sunrise.”

Without much warning, the band changes gears for full female singing in “Stillness is the Move” and the reflective “Two Doves.”  A string section also becomes more prominent, rising and falling to accent the tension in each song.

Exciting, memorable moments pepper each song.  The straining repetition of titular phrase “Bitte Orca” accompanies a wild thrashing guitar that cuts right through the center of the initially relaxed “Useful Chamber.”

It’s hard to exactly classify what Dirty Projectors have created in Bitte Orca.  As a cop-out, I could call it “indie rock,” but that really sells short the experience.  Unique vocals and a reluctance to rely on guitar makes the album shift toward R&B, even if everything seems to fit within a rock guise.

What makes the album so good is how the crazy changes and memorable phrases all interact.  Excellent musicianship and endless creativity really go a long way toward making a great album.  Dirty Projectors use both to carefully craft each complex song.

As a warning, you will need to listen carefully to get the most out of Bitte Orca.  However, if you’re willing to let things develop, you will be rewarded by the most complex album of the year.  It’s constantly impressive and a great long-term investment.  Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective now have new competition.

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