John Wesley Harding knows when he gets an email, phone message or a piece of postal junk addressing him as “John,” it’s coming from someone who’s never met him. He’s known to friends as “Wes,” since his real name (the one he uses in his second career as an award-winning author) is Wesley Stace. Harding’s 15th album, Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead, depicts an artist well aware of what he does best: marvelously witty lyrics delivered in an emotion-wracked singing voice. Harding will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with him.
John Wesley Harding: I know very little about Dirty Projectors, but I think their new album, Bitte Orca, is terrific: beautifully sung and arranged, and truly progressive. I hear a little Yes in the pitch of the vocals (and in the appealing ambition of the music; that was always the best thing about prog, the sound of people trying for something beyond), some David Byrne in the twitchiness, even a little 10CC in the harmonies, and a lot of the folk guitar picking I love (Bert Jansch, etc.) in the fragmented and beautiful guitar parts. I highly recommend the record, though I’m sorry I haven’t got anything very pretentious, knowledgeable or original to say about them. I’ll leave that to Pitchfork and the New York Times. In fact, the Times says Dirty Projectors call to mind “stuttering modal riffs from Mali, the meandering melodies of opera or modern music theater, pygmy antiphonal vocals, Captain Beefheart, Zimbabwean and Congolese rock, King Crimson, Talking Heads, Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks.” And, of course, I heard nothing of that except for Talking Heads, unless the “stuttering modal riffs from Mali” are like Jansch’s fluid modal riffs from Glasgow. And now I come to think of it, I definitely hear that African guitar thing. Perhaps Dirty Projectors will be all things to everyone or nothing to no one. Let’s assume the former. Good sounds! Listen up!
“Stillness Is The Move” (live) (download):