"I don't know how I'm gonna be a better man/I don't know how I'm gonna reach the promised land/I don't know how I'm gonna get you to take my hand/But I'm gonna start and I know when." With these words in the first track on Dirty Projectors' 2018 release Lamp Lit Prose, David Longstreth (the group's leader and solo constant member) shares the good news: he's feeling better now. On 2017's self-titled Dirty Projectors, Longstreth was reeling from a tough romantic breakup, and a dark mood dominated the material, as well as a greater reliance on electronics and vocal manipulation. The cooler textures and digital sheen of that album certainly informs Lamp Lit Prose, but this time out the music has a much more organic feel, with natural horns, guitars, strings, and percussion dancing within the electronic frameworks. There's a palpable joy in this music that hasn't been so strong in Longstreth's work since 2009's breakthrough Bitte Orca, and while it never turns sappy, Lamp Lit Prose speaks of hope and second chances in the more optimistic tone of the music, reinforced by the percolating rhythms, the breathy harmonies, and the angular enthusiasm of the guitar work. Like Bitte Orca, Lamp Lit Prose is a genuinely adventurous work, not shy about pointing to Dirty Projectors' experimental roots, but the material also sounds bright, playful, and engaging, accessible even when the melodies and meters take unexpected left turns. And while HAIM, Amber Mark, Syd (of the Internet), Robin Pecknold (of Fleet Foxes) and Empress Of all contribute their talents to these songs, this is very much David Longstreth's music, and it's heartfelt, passionate, and beguiling in the tradition of Dirty Projectors' best work.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming