The last time Alex Zhang Hungtai’s Dirty Beaches project appeared in the Playlist it was for the rough and tumble groove of “Sweet 17”. That song showcased the Alan Vega growl in Hungtai’s throat, but “True Blue”– also taken from the forthcoming Badlands— demonstrates how dainty his range can get. This is an airy tale of love gone wrong, where the story is relayed as much through wordless falsetto cries as it is through the lyrics. “I’m begging you please,” he quietly ruminates, before letting one of those yelps curl up out of the mire with all the sharpness of a dagger plunging straight into his heart. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Hungtai is highly attuned to some of the sillier conventions of the 1950s rock’n’roll idiom he obviously idolizes, such as the spoken word passage that decorates this song, and makes those touches entertaining and perturbing in equal measure. That mix of values, where a pastiche of old-fashioned conventions meets coarse emotion, is where Dirty Beaches’ music finds its odd, unsettling center. It’s a feeling not dissimilar to the one engendered by Roy Orbison at his peak, where the thought that something slightly sinister is twitching behind those glasses slowly pulls the world out from under you as you plunge deeper into his malaise.
— Nick Neyland, March 14, 2011