Dirty Projectors and Jackson Browne Share More Than a Haircut

Dirty Projectors, Nico, Jackson Browne. Photos: Getty Images

Every Wednesday, Douglas Wolk explores the people, places and coincidences that tie disparate musicians together.

Dirty Projectors are a fascinating band, more deeply invested in newness than nearly any of their alt-rock contemporaries. Their newly released album Swing Lo Magellan continues to explore fresh territory; here’s their minimalist video for its similarly stripped-down first single, “The Gun Has No Trigger.”

But you don’t get to make your art new without mastering its history. “Two Doves,” a tender ballad that’s smack in the middle of Dirty Projectors’ 2009 album Bitte Orca, is a magpie’s nest, incorporating glittering fragments of songs written before songwriter David Longstreth was born.
A few of Longstreth’s lyrics in “Two Doves” point to specific sources. The first line of the song is “Geranium kisser/ Skin like silk and face like glass” — both slight variations on phrases that had never been uttered before Bob Dylan’s “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.” (Here’s Joan Baez’s 1967 cover of it.)

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