In the indie-rock academy of musical tomfoolery, Dave Longstreth has always earned excellent marks: in the past, he's released a "glitch opera" focused on a suicidal Don Henley (The Getty Address), reinterpreted a Black Flag album based on his obscured teenage memories (Rise Above), and with 2009's deliriously drooled-over Bitte Orca, perfected his singular cross-pollination of spastic electric guitar noise, glitchy electronics, and cerebral, pogo-ing female harmonies that simultaneously soothe and puncture your brain. But Longstreth's sick of being a fuckin' weirdo, man, which explains why he designed Swing Lo Magellan, his sixth full-length with the Dirty Ps, as his first true "album of songs," his first conscious exploration of what makes traditional verse-chorus pop music tick. This is still Longstreth we're talking about — this guy trying to write an "album of normal songs" is like David Lynch trying to direct a "normal movie" (even The Straight Story offered plenty of heebie-jeebies). And Magellan gets off to a slightly shaky start: "Offspring Are Blank" pulses ominously, Longstreth's vocal wandering over a bed of female harmonies and electronic squiggles, but even the distorted tidal-wave chorus can't rescue it from aimlessness. When Longstreth uses his newfound focus to shake up his methods (stripping down the arrangements, de-cluttering the lyrics, offering raw, first-take performances), the results are often startling: "Maybe That Was It" wanders around in a tempo-fucked drunken stupor, but it's held together masterfully by Longstreth's dreamy falsetto. On "The Socialites," singer Amber Coffman follows up her star turn on Bitte Orca's R&B-psych standout "Stillness Is the Move" with another class-act vocal performance, soulfully belting lyrics like "I think she's the prettiest lady I've ever seen/Her hair, it has meaning and volume and such a sheen" over simple guitar plucks and dizzy hi-hat. Its simplicity really does speak volumes.
DIRTY PROJECTORS + PURITY RING | Paradise Rock Club, 967 Comm Ave, Boston | Show moved to August 19 @ 7pm | 18+ | $22.50 | 617.562.8800