Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan | Album Review | By Volume

I'm afraid of heaven because I can't stand the height. I'm afraid of you because I can't be left behind. St. Vincent - Regret
Swing_Lo_Magellan

Dirty Projectors

Swing Lo Magellan

New life for old souls.

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Author: on July 23, 2012
8.5
Domino Records
July 10, 2012

I wonder how many times a month Dave Longstreth reads about or hears that he is in some way a genius. After a while, no matter how long one may continue to be praised, you figure it must wear on a psyche, right? Well for all the hyperbole (or lack thereof in some cases) heaped upon Dirty Projectors since their reincarnation as a dynamic rock band Swing Lo Magellan displays a band devoid of pressure. It is a pop-conscious record that presents the group and really Longstreth at the utmost accessible—or at least for their career so far. Though this diversion from Bitte Orca’s (2009) backwards melodies and quirky guitar riffs is not an unwelcome one; while that record found surprising strength within its unusual song structure Swing Lo Magellan is the band willingly giving itself to their adoration of 60’s-70’s pop.

It should not take very long for those familiar with Dirty Projectors to recognize how stark of an improvement the band has made lyrically with this record. Difficult as it is at times to compare this version of the band with that of the early, sans female trio years I feel pretty safe in asserting this is the most intimate Longstreth has been. “What is mine is yours / in happiness and in strife / you’re my love / and I want you in my life,” Longstreth coos on the elegant “Impregnable Question” a profession of affection postured by skipping keys and acoustic strums. Sure, the Projectors have crafted love songs before but this creature occupies a deceptively lush world of sunny pop reverberated in lo-fi.

Deceptively lush really describes most of Swing Lo Magellan; a record Longstreth assures us was crafted with no intention of cohesiveness but sheer whimsical song-craft. Surprisingly enough though the record is extremely fleshed out. To his credit Longstreth—who penned, recorded and produced Swing Lo Magellan—has put together twelve distinctly unique and thankfully generally excellent tracks to follow through on his imposed change of direction beautifully. “In my heart / there is music / In my mind is a song” he reveals on “Irresponsible Tune” a beautiful song that echoes a male quartet behind Longstreth’s introspective vocals showcasing a comfort level the band had yet to assert on record. “There’s a bird singing at my window / and it’s singing an irresponsible tune” he concludes, yet if Longstreth’s imagination is the bird in constant call the only irresponsible thing would be to ignore its cries.

This altered course the Projectors have undertaken is not so much an unexpected twist as it is a self-aware gloss at the camera. Swing Lo Magellan frequently comes off as a project Longstreth always knew was capable of happening yet he took his sweet fucking time for the sake of shrewdness. Though this bitterness is probably only my own manifestation by virtue of the fact that they settle with such ease into these comparatively accessible tunes while continuing to champion awkwardly appealing harmonies and backwards guitar riffs. From the standpoint of a traditional pop blueprint “Gun Has No Trigger,” “Just From Chevron,” “Dance For You” and “The Socialites” partially tread new ground for the Projectors and still these tracks are awash in catchy hooks and curiously captivating guitar riffs.

I boogied down gargoyle streets / searching in every face / for something I could believe.” Longstreth conveys on “Dance For You” amongst hand-claps, a thick bassline, wiry riffs and elegant string arrangements. Though his search seems as though it may be concluded as he has spent about a decade circumnavigating his ambitions, techniques—his genius—to end at Swing Lo Magellan. And thankfully, as concrete and complete as this record is, there is nary a sign of Dirty Projectors fading into the horizon; really they might have just departed port.

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