Amber Coffman

City of No Reply

Columbia

May 31, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


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For years Amber Coffman was an important component in Dirty Projectors, and it shows on her solo debut. If City of No Reply sounds like her former band, that's just as much because her ex-partner David Longstreth's musical project came to be shaped by Coffman. But differences do come across in a smoother, less challenging experience.

Less challenging is no insult either. Coffman shakes off the sharp edges Longstreth likes to employ, favoring a calmer, more intimate experience. It's easy listening for those who still enjoy music, rather than someone looking for a harmless tune to soundtrack the household chores.

That's not to say Coffman can't ramp up the emotion. She opens with "All to Myself," singing "I can't just sit around feeling upset/Dwelling on my loneliness." This comes the same year Longstreth put out a new Dirty Projectors record chronicling his despair at their break-up. It also has a distinct Dirty Projectors feel; all slowly insistent percussion, carefully delivered vocals and warped electronic harmonizing.

Coffman moves from the template, though sometimes the sharp edges grind down until impact is lost. In the absence of actively bad songs there are too many that drift by, particularly in the second half. City of No Reply lacks enough energy to carry through to the end, which is not to say it doesn't contain some really rather brilliant standouts.

The best is "If You Want My Heart," Coffman's voice turning smoky lounge singer to deliver "Love is hard/We won't forget that part/But love is how we/Can be the best we are." With quietly funky bass, xylophone and dreamy synth effects, it's a triumph. If City of No Reply doesn't always touch such heights, it sometimes does, and that's a pretty damn good start to Coffman's solo career. (www.ambercoffmanmusic.com)

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