Release Date: Jun 2, 2017
Record label: Columbia
Former Dirty Projectors member Amber Coffman strikes out solo with City of No Reply, a beguiling post-breakup set full of sunny self-motivation and lush melancholia. Recorded partly with former bandmate/romantic partner David Longstreth, then completed on her own in Los Angeles, City of No Reply is, ultimately, a more straightforward musical and emotional statement than anything from her tenure with the acclaimed New York art pop outfit. Confessional in a way befitting the singer/songwriter history of her new home, Coffman's debut does deal with endings: her breakup with Longstreth and her departure from both the band and New York.
A mber Coffman probably didn't want her debut solo album to be picked over for titbits of scurrilous gossip, but that seems unavoidable now. Her split in 2012 from longtime boyfriend - and one-time Dirty Projectors bandmate - Dave Longstreth finally became fractious after this year's self-titled Dirty Projectors album, which saw him unleash some fairly vicious barbs. It left people on tenterhooks as to what Coffman's musical response might be, but - the odd pointed lyric aside - that response is a sunny, R&B-influenced album abundant with fluttering melodies, and concerned less with settling scores than learning to exist alone ("There's a voice inside of me, and it's time to listen," is how All to Myself kicks things off).
On her debut solo album, Amber Coffman erects an altar to the shine and glow of '90s pop-rock and R&B. The former Dirty Projectors vocalist noted in an interview with The Guardian this year that the women of '90s R&B "partially raised" her through a tumultuous childhood. That heritage lives in every nook and cranny on City of No Reply, which sparkles in part thanks to the production hand of Coffman's former bandmate Dave Longstreth.
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.
It's not like Amber Coffman set out to write a revenge album. City of No Reply, the debut solo album from the former Dirty Projectors member, was completed in November 2015. Thanks to the cryptic horology of album delays, we're hearing it months after Dirty Projectors, the album Coffman's ex, Dave Longstreth, wrote about their breakup. On that record, he skewers her for a perceived failure to be a sufficiently serious artiste--but before that ever happened, he helped produce Reply, peppering it with his signature shudders and carefully raked beds of robo-harmonies.