Swing Lo Magellan
Jul 09, 2012 Web Exclusive
Whether one has been charmed or lost by Dirty Projectors' free willingness to chase their muse anywhere the wind has blown it over the past 10 years, their latest album is a winner either way. Swing Lo Magellan packs as many different ideas as ever into a new set of songs while offering perhaps the clearest and most satisfying picture yet of what the band is about.
While Dirty Projectors have always been driven by core member David Longstreth's vision, Magellan benefits from its feel as a band record. On "Offspring Are Blank," soaring, silky harmonies fly and fall like paper airplanes around Longstreth's vocals. The song's core blasts apart as the group bashes away like garage players with glam aspirations before returning abruptly to the song's initial wobbly serenity.
Shifting comfortably from one melodic corner of the room to the next, Longstreth and company play it straight with the winning, simply hewn folk rock of the title track before heading into the busy rhythms and warped tones of "See What She Seeing." The real achievement here is the arresting "Gun Has No Trigger": over a simple foundation of bass drums, Longstreth builds tension as he sings each verse, mounting to a sublime vocal release courtesy of Amber Coffman and Haley Dekle.
"Unto Caesar" finds the group in a festive mood, sounding like they're genuinely enjoying each other's company. As acoustic guitars sparkle and strings drag sweetly underneath, Longstreth leads the charge vocally as Coffman and Dekle harmonize and goof. For some it may seem a bit precious, but even those listeners might envy the kitchen-cozy-with-friends vibe.
After a few seconds of "Irresponsible Tune" it becomes clear that Longstreth is after a high-lonesome Elvis sound for the track, and he manages to pretty much nail it. With an acoustic guitar and subdued Jordanaires-style backing vocals, the record closes with, of all things, a subdued nod to the King. Stylistically, at least. Even if the RCA label never presented Elvis singing "In my mind is a song/But in my eyes a world crooked, fucked-up, and wrong," somewhere he's probably nodding agreement that he knows exactly what Dirty Projectors mean. (www.dirtyprojectors.net)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 8/10