Advance Notice: Dirty Projectors’ “Bitte Orca”


As a general rule, Dirty Projectors songs are loquacious. They sputter and bellow and blurt until their every edge is on display, and the edges mumble into one another every once in a while. In keeping with this pattern, listening to the Dirty Projectors’ upcoming album, Bitte Orca (which NPR is streaming here), is like pouring out another round from a carafe full of bliss to a tipsy, antsy crowd.

These words sound all right together, but they illuminate nothing about what it is like to hear a Dirty Projectors song for the first time — which is almost impossible. Here, for example, is an excerpt from “The Glad Fact,” the opening track on the Dirty Projectors’ 2003 album of the same name. It is a tune about the narrator’s “fainthearted” approach to new relationships. In the interest of preserving its emotional integrity, I have chosen to render the figure from memory in lieu of revisiting the original recording, the same conceit frontman Dave Longstreth used to write their 2007 LP Rise Above.

“Oh HEE ah go ag-gay-uh!

Wuh heee rahgo uh geh uh WAY uh uh uh oh weh!

HEE uh ah ah I goh uh geh ooh eh…”

A disclaimer is now necessary: Longstreth enunciates the lyric pretty clearly on the actual track. Gibberish trumps prose here, however, for a literal reading does a piss-poor job of conveying the force of will in his deliberately inelegant exclamation. The narrator is sighing “Here I go again!” over a descending third. Abruptly, he jumps an octave, descends a major scale, and ends up about a step up from where he started. This transcription makes the break sounds like a metaphor, because it is one, but it does not capture whatever it is — and it is quite something — that compels his naive voice down.

To hear it is to wonder if Longstreth might surrender on the spot. He doesn’t — in fact, he’s more or less fine by the next song — and he has loaded with Bitte Orca with many recapitulations of those few seconds of sentiment. The depths are there even when Longstreth’s lyrics undercut them, which is often; and even when he’s not the one singing out into the ether, which is more often than on previous albums.

There may be only one thing left to say about Bitte Orca, something another rock band with a couple of girls and a guy with a guitar once cooed about quite well: Eep, opp, ork, ah-ah! Like Elroy Jetson’s hit single, Bitte Orca is some real Space Age shit. “BITTE ORCA!/ORCA BITTE!” is already a meme, and this stunner isn’t even out until June 9. That jet scream really says all you need to know.