Posts Tagged ‘Bitte Orca’

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people on stage, people standing and indoor

2009 was a really special year for indie rock. It felt like this year where it really felt like indie rock was gonna overtake whatever mainstream rock was in 2009, which was still like Linkin Park and Creed, or whatever. It felt like this brief year where the biggest rock records of the year were by these weird bands from Brooklyn: Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest, Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix —  this Dirty Projectors record for the 10th anniversary;  actually to be released in 2020.

2009 was this really great Golden Period for indie rock, and there are so many records to celebrate from that year. “Bitte Orca” is sort of the moment where the Dirty Projectors became more than an art rock band. This guy from Yale, Dave Longstreth, had been making pretty weird records leading up to this; this album was the one where this band could suddenly play big theaters, they’re no longer playing lofts in Brooklyn. You actually said you were lookin’ for a song with some bop in it, earlier… “Stillness is the Move” is the boppiest Dirty Projectors record ever.

Longstreth had started gathering ideas for the Dirty Projectors album, Bitte Orca, he took imaginary artists squatting in the sprawl and put them in a song, “Temecula Sunrise.” In the opening movement, he sings over intricate acoustic fingerpicking:

“I live in a new construction home / I live on the strip behind the dealership, yeah / I live in a greenhouse and I am getting wasted”

As the song progresses, it gets louder and more raucous: bright electric guitar; hard-driving drums; tight, jaunty bass; and — perhaps most importantly — near-constant interaction between Longstreth’s singing and backup vocals from Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, and Haley Dekle. It sounds like something that might have been made in the house the lyrics describe, with people dropping in unannounced, layering new ideas into the song on the fly, playing loud in the basement. In part because it appears early in the album, I’ve always experienced it as a conceptual support beam for much of what follows. It has the effect of a question: Do you maybe want to come and join the party? Is it time?

Definitely you can come and live with us / I know there’s a space for you in the basement, yeah / All you gotta do is help out with the chores and dishes / And I know you will”

Bitte Orca, 10 years after its original release, still retains its awe-inspiring power; its knotty, complex, stunning compositions have not been dulled by the passing of time, and in context, seem even more radical. The two albums leading up to Bitte Orca were a from-memory recreation of a Black Flag album (2007’s Rise Above) and a “glitch opera” about Eagles frontman Don Henley (2005’s The Getty Address). So when Bitte Orca came out, with its complex choral arrangements, and its deconstructed avant-pop and R&B, it felt like a shock to the system, a left-field masterpiece from out of nowhere. Bitte Orca would start a fertile creative period for the band, and cement frontman David Longstreth as one of the most adventurous indie rock auteurs.

In addition to the sheer infectiousness of the music itself, which cannot be overlooked — the album has endured so successfully: measure by measure, line by line, song by song, it reminds us of everything we wanted, all the ways those wants were and weren’t realized, and, most of all, the joyful news that the journey isn’t yet over.

Bitte Orca has always been one of those albums that sends critics scrambling for elaborate strings of influences and reference points: rock meets R&B with a helping of African guitar, plus lyrics referencing Nietzsche, the Biblical Song of Solomon, and X and Y and Z.