Dirty Projectors – Stillness is the Move (2009, Domino Records)
Why It’s Perfect: As with most everything Brooklyn’s Dirty Projectors set their hands to, Stillness is the Move is by any reckoning a strange, strange song. The difference between it and most of their other material is how devilishly catchy it is, how much you get the sensation that this could be a serious left-of-the-dial club hit. The instrumentation is quirky to say the least. Its main melodic element is a strangely sprained-sounding guitar riff that plinks along like an unwinding Eastern music box, while the elaborate “I studied music at Yale, bitch” string quartet denouement both ably complements the melodic arc of the song and virtually smacks you across the face with the “experimental” label. The reason so many people have discussed its pop crossover potential in relation to the likes of Beyonce (or at least Solange) is mostly in the wheelhouse; the spare R&B-inflected beat, which combines Brian Mcomber’s acoustic drums with cute rippling synths, is built to get heads nodding and at least a few scrawny indie chick asses shaking. It’s a formula Dirty Projectors lifted from Timbaland; no matter how weird the samples are, they sound alright if the beat is tight. Credit is due also to the vocals of Angel Deradoorian and Amber Coffman, who successfully combine the po’ faced passivity of the standard female indie vocalist with some “I listened to Mary J. Blige as a teenager” diva-esque histrionics. It’s a bit like Cat Power by way of Mariah Carey, and who amongst us hasn’t always wanted to hear that?
Defining Moment: The intro. Standard fare – enter drums, enter guitar, enter vocals – but when every element is as cool as it is in this song, it gets the blood flowing. The instant those off-kilter yet strangely precise chords hit, you know you’re in for something sexy and circular and intriguing.
Other Great Songs by Dirty Projectors: While Stillness is the Move is likely the single catchiest moment in Dirty Projectors’ discography, there’s a lot of interesting stuff in their discography to have fun with, like their bizarro-world soul-inflected cover of Black Flag’s Rise Above, or the gorgeous freak folk of Room 13. I’d recommend new listeners start with the record that accompanied this single, 2009’s Bitte Orca.