Do Not Reply
City of No Reply is former Dirty Projectors member Amber Coffman’s debut solo LP. While it’s considerably more pop and R&B-influenced than the typical Dirty Projectors’ album, it’s clear that quirky and complex instrumentation run in Coffman’s blood.
There’s a bit of a backstory to this album, as it’s centered on Coffman’s breakup from Dirty Projectors lead singer Dave Longstreth. When she discovered the band was releasing its own breakup revenge album, Coffman decided it was time to retaliate. Thus, City of No Reply is an album of overcoming adversity and coming out on top.
The majority of the pop-inspired tracks are upbeat and victorious in sound, with lyrics that show just how well Coffman is doing post-breakup. “No Coffee” is upbeat and summer-y. Coffman sings, “Baby, I need you in a serious way / can’t give you all this love when you push me away / I’m at the mountain and I’m strong enough / I’m gonna run till I fall down in your love,” in an attempt to pick herself up when heartbreak is getting her down. “City of No Reply” will delight pop listeners with a reggae-inspired beat and vocal runs. “Run run away / you don’t wanna watch me cry / oh to live and die / in the city of no reply,” Coffman sings vengefully in the chorus. But “If You Want My Heart” is the true standout, as Coffman sings, “love is hard / we won’t forget that part / but love is how we can be the best we are,” truly from the soul, featuring an ostinato bass line with minimal yet stunning instrumentation and vocals invoking the guts of Little Dragon.
While there are some stunning moments in City of No Reply, many of the tracks seem to lack focus, both in depth and melody. While it’s possible to be “pop” without completely selling out, sometimes the melodies in pop music all start to sound the same, which is an issue on this album. For an ear that craves melodic lines, this album won’t particularly leave one coming back for more. Regardless, an album with a backstory will always have some intrigue, and Coffman does a good job alluring her listeners with the breakup premise — a topic most of us can relate to.