Song 303: Dirty Projectors, “No Intention” (2009)

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When Lizzie and I moved back to Boston after a five-year stay in Minnesota, it wasn’t under the most ideal conditions. The move was due to her grad school internship placement, a result of a “match” process that just decided where you were going to live. At the time, as much as we wanted to move back to Boston, we owned a condo whose value was far below what we paid; we wanted to stick around long enough to sell the place after the market recovered, even slightly. A computer decided otherwise.

Nanny, my Irish grandmother, died a few months before we left Minneapolis, and we moved into her house while we found our footing. This turned out to be an incredible experience. I spent many weekends in that house as a kid, running around the backyard and playing a game with my sister that involved throwing a rubber ball up the basement stairs. It wasn’t a huge or beautiful house, but it was built back when houses were built: it was sturdy. And it sat on a plot of land in Newton Highlands, just outside Newton Centre, and a block away from a T stop. (My grandparents had the incredible foresight to build the house near in-the-works T stop, thus increasing its value over the coming years.)

One of the most amazing things about moving to Nanny’s house was bringing our personal effects into her space, from posters to dishes. Installing cable and internet was especially incredible to consider, as she never had either one. I got to play guitar and sing in her kitchen, which I’d never done. My favorite thing, however, was bringing our music into her house. Blasting Phil Spector Christmas music while the snow fell outside, or Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks” while sipping coffee in the morning, was not only fun but novel: this was a bigger space than we’d ever shared, and it was bigger than any we’d likely ever share. Again, it wasn’t a huge house, but it was a house, and who knows if we’ll ever be able to afford one of those, let alone one located so close to a city. We were like the kids in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, if only for a few months.

It was in this frame of mind that I listened to Dirty Projectors’ “No Intention” every day in the fall of 2009, letting its disparate sounds slip around the house like unraveling threads. That’s what I love most about Dirty Projectors: it seems like its pieces will never come together, but they inevitably do, without your noticing. “No Intention” isn’t terribly chaotic, but its first few seconds sound, at first blush, like aimless guitar noodling. Once the chorus rolls around, you hear the pieces come together as a Big Pop Chorus, complete with “ooh” backup vocals and a melody that could stay in your head for days.

That I got to play a song so simultaneously strange and wonderful in a place that meant so much to me for 30 years, loudly and repeatedly, is nothing short of a gift. We moved out in the winter of 2010, and the house was torn down to make room for another bland mini-mansion. But “No Intention” makes me think of the house’s last moment, after years of Thanksgivings, poker games, Sunday dinners, and Saturday morning cartoons. It sounds melodramatic, but that’s how it feels: I was unknowingly giving the house a grownup sendoff to the soundtrack of Dave Longstreth. What a world.

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2 Comments on “Song 303: Dirty Projectors, “No Intention” (2009)”

  1. Eileen K. Brooks says:

    That is so moving, David. I am so glad and lucky to have had the opportunity to meet your grandparents. And, of course, Sammy too!!!!! I hope he haunts the new bland mini-mansion.
    God bless.


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