Dirty Projectors' "Swing Lo Magellan"

Dirty Projectors' "Swing Lo Magellan"

  • Article by: Jon O'Brien
  • Posted: 07/05/2012

Frontman Dave Longstreth’s description of Dirty Projectors’ sixth studio effort, Swing Lo Magellan, as “an album of songs” would in most cases win the award for most uninformative statement of the year. But considering 2005’s The Getty Address was a “glitch opera” about the life of Don Henley and 2007’s Rise Above was a re-imagining of the entirety of Black Flag’s Damaged, his simplistic overview reveals just how much of a departure the record is from their earlier avant-garde output. 

“Maybe That Was It,” a discordant prog number which sounds like each member of the quintet are playing a completely different song, and the woozy ambience of, “See What She Was Seeing,” prove that it’s still far from a mainstream affair. 

But alongside its ever-changing time signatures, esoteric lyrics and pirouetting melodies, the band also further explore the pop sensibilities they hinted at with the 2009 breakthrough, Bitte Orca

There are definite shades of early 00s R&B on the opening track, “Offspring Are Blank,” an off-kilter fusion of staccato beats and Timberlake-style falsetto harmonies which, unexpectedly, (or perhaps expectedly in this case), explodes into quick bursts of 60s folk, 70s psychedelia and 90s sludgy alt-rock. “Just From Chevron” recalls the intricate Afro-pop of Vampire Weekend, whose vocalist, Ezra Koenig, was a one-time Dirty Projector himself.

But the less cluttered numbers are just as enchanting, from the delicate pastoral folk of the title track, to the unusually romantic Paul McCartney-esque acoustic balladry of “Impregnable Question,” to the sweetly-sung Casio pop of Amber Coffman’s solo, “The Socialites.”

Accessible but still full of idiosyncrasies, Swing Lo Magellan is an intelligent pop album which impressively avoids becoming too clever for its own good. 

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