When I think of Alex Hungtai’s work as Dirty Beaches, two things come to mind: the movie “Mulholland Drive” by David Lynch and a raggedy man in a leather jacket walking the streets of an unknown city. This double album is a perfect representation of these two. The first album, “Drifters,” is somewhat of an homage to Wong Kar Wei and the drifter lifestyle. I get the gist of a man who is going from bar to bar, town to town, smoking a cigarette and playing a guitar as he walks to his next destination.
The songs “Night Walk,” “I Dream in Neon,” and “Casino Lisboa” all have extremely catchy melodies that seem to expand into eternity. As I walk to catch my train in the morning, I often find myself humming “Night Walk,” tapping my feet to the beat.
These three songs are a good place to start if you are just getting into Hungtai’s dense catalog of lo-fi recordings.
The more you listen, the more you start to understand what Dirty Beaches is doing. He is not trying to create an “album” by today’s standards. His music is too cinematic to be placed in a rock or jazz section of a music store. Hungtai’s aim is to create a conceptual soundtrack. His music fits more into movie genres than music genres.
As we finish off “Drifters” on a sad and lonely note, the more experimental and odd album starts to play, “Love Is the Devil.” The first track, “Woman,” immediately gives me an uneasy feeling that grows as I listen. The catchiness is replaced with an even more riveting experience.
The ideas that go into this album seem straightforward: a man loves a woman but knows he will have to leave her, just like everything else in his life. It’s basic when trying to explain it through the English language, but as Hungtai knows, music can make it all the more interesting, especially when you have a theatrical standpoint.
This album is so good and just keeps getting better. The lo-fi recording quality bridges these two distinct albums together, creating a masterpiece.
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