Embracing Solitude

Photo: SUPPLIED

The former member of indie ensemble Dirty Projectors navigates life following a break-up on her soulful and intimate solo debut.

Amber Coffman/ City Of No Reply

Back in March in this very space, we featured The Dirty Projectors’ first LP in five years since 2012’s Swing Lo Magellan. Although released under the group’s name, it’s essentially a solo endeavour from lead single/guitarist David Longstreth, an ex-partner of former band member Amber Coffman. On that record, he wasn’t being at all coy about his split with her. The break-up was, in fact, its central theme and fingers were pointed (“What I want from art is truth/What you want is fame,” he sings on lead single Keep Your Name).

If Longstreth gave us a rather caustic of how things ended, Coffman is doing the exact opposite on her solo debut, City of No Reply. Produced by Longstreth himself and recorded in Los Angeles where she’d relocated to a few years prior, the album opens with All to Myself, a lush RB oldies throwback dedicated to “anyone who’s ever found themselves uncomfortably restless, sad and alone, or even temporarily doubting themselves and their dreams, this is a mantra, a pep talk, a love song to yourself”.

“I can’t just sit around feeling upset/Dwelling on my loneliness/Maybe if I step out/Go get some sun/Maybe today I’ll get something done,” she coos over understated slow-dance production. No Coffee pushes on in a similar vein with swelling guitars as she addresses her ambivalent feelings about the fractured relationship: “Don’t need no coffee, I’m wide awake/I’m not much for sleeping when your love is at stake…I need you in a serious way/Can’t give you all this love when you push me away.”

Dark Night is musically the closest thing to Dirty Projectors’ past discography. Alongside burbling synths and bouncy percussion, she sings in response to her ex’s bitter blame game (“I hear you singing with the vengeance/Like the coyote at the moon/Singing your blues, a song I know so well…Stepping out on our own into the dark night/It can get cold in the world alone”).

Elsewhere, Coffman continues to explore the many shades of post-breakup listlessness and emptiness. She wants to run away on the ska-inflected title track, turns a critical eye on today’s society on Miss You (“Funny how no one talks anymore/Caught up on the phone in the store”), and wishes to blow away like the wind because “nobody knows how I feel/Nobody sees my soul” on Nobody Knows.

But if City of No Reply offers any consolation at all, it does just that in its final three offerings (Under the Sun, Brand New, Kindness). “And this love wants not to hinder our evolution/It only wants the best for you/The best for me,” she sings on the latter, a closer built on stately organ keys and sumptuous horns. It’s a brilliant finish to the album about, as she puts it so succinctly, “learning to live with yourself”.

The Playlist

Yinglee Srijumpol/ Cheewit Dee Dee

With her 2013 breakthrough single Kau Jai Tur Lak Bur Toh (Your Heart for My Number) having to date racked up close to 200 million views on YouTube, Yinglee is perhaps the most recognisable face/voice of Thai luk thung. After releasing sophomore LP Yu Yen Pen Soad in 2015, the molam queen returns with her third, the self-explanatory Chood Tee 3, Cheewit Dee Dee (Third Album, Fabulous Life). In keeping with most of her hits, the title track aims squarely at the dancefloor and is packed full of playful lyrics (in this case, how she’s winning at every aspect of her life).

Bleachers/ I Miss Those Days

Apart from penning hits for some of the biggest names in pop (Sia, Taylor Swift, Zayn, Lorde), fun guitarist Jack Antonoff also makes music under the solo project Bleachers. I Miss Those Days marks the latest offering from Bleachers’ new album Gone Now and follows a slew of singles including Don’t Take The Money, the Carly Rae Jepsen-featuring Hate That You Know Me and Everybody Lost Somebody. The jaunty, stadium-ready jam finds Antonoff in wistful mode, reminiscing about getting older and the days when he’d “sit on [his] sister’s rooftop watching our city burn in to the night” and when he was “sixteen in a van driving to Florida”.

Washed Out/ Get Lost

Every time chillwave initiator Washed Out (real name Ernest Greene) releases new music, we can’t help but wonder what sort of sound he’s deploying now that chillwave is considered a bit passé. Get Lost, Greene’s first new material under the moniker Washed Out since 2013’s Paracosm, sees the singer-songwriter continuing to push beyond the confines of the style he was originally known for. Set to cruising house production, the track radiates sun-drenched weekend vibes and the kind of sumptuous haziness found on Toro y Moi’s best songs.

TOPS/ Petals

Montreal’s indie-rock quartet TOPS have put out their third studio LP, Sugar at the Gate, earlier this month, but we’re still luxuriating in the lushness of its lead cut, Petals. Here, the group leans toward the retro, funk-leaning pop sensibility that would provide a perfect soundtrack to any road trip. “Got a phone full of numbers and a list full of names/No one to call, not much to say,” vocalist Jane Penny muses, keenly addressing the modern disconnect we’re all facing in today’s world. “All I wanna do/Let the petals fall away/All I wanna do is call your name.”

Dent May (feat Frankie Cosmos)/ Across the Multiverse

LA singer/songwriter Dent May joins forces with folk songstress Frankie Cosmos on Across the Multiverse, lead single off the former’s upcoming fourth studio outing of the same name. Dubbed “a deep space love song about finding love beyond impossible boundaries”, the duet, whose title is a tongue-in-cheek play on The Beatles’ beloved classic Across the Universe, highlights May’s knack for crafting whimsical pop ditties that never fail to put a grin on your face.