Album Review: Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

By on Monday, 9th July 2012 at 12:00 pm

It’s rare that experimental music, or at least guitar-led music with such an interesting style is taken in at such a level that Dirty Projectors experienced with ‘Bitte Orca’ over 3 years ago. With a Pitchfork rating of 9.2 and a general consensus little short of impeccable, the group rose out of relative obscurity to indie champions faster than you can say ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’.

So now we’ve made it to 2012 and there’s a whole host of bands doing their best to be unique in the same way as the Brooklyn collective, which whilst in itself an ironically futile objective has produced some of the most interesting music of the last few years. Most recently for example, one of this year’s most critically acclaimed records is alt-J’s debut ‘An Awesome Wave’, which it could be argued takes plenty of influence from Dave Longstreth’s creations.

Of course, Dirty Projectors are hardly the forefathers of this sort of music, but there’s just something in the blend that makes the collective such an interesting listen time and time again. It’s within that niche that ‘Swing Lo Magellan’ falls into.  From the off there’s instantly a quality in the sound that draws you in. It’s the opening page to what sounds like a story that unfolds via so many acts that have tread a similar path. In the calmer moments you could be listening to Elbow, in the frenzied sections you could easily be listening to The Flaming Lips or David Bowie. The craft that’s gone into the all round audible feel of this record feels like a conscious decision to ignore anyone that sounds similar and to just make something that can keep a Dirty Projectors name without any contamination.

Therein lays both the genius and the problem. Whilst tracks like ‘Gun Has No Trigger’ (I dare you not to enjoy the brilliance of the vocal lines in ‘About to Die’) push the vocal strengths of Longstreth, you drift away in the middle as if you’ve heard it before; and that’s because you have. You’ve heard previous Dirty Projectors and you’ve heard all of the other bands that push for a similar sound. It’s only in tracks like ‘Unto Caesar’ where you feel that they’re aware of this and whilst they remain in their comfort zone there’s the jesting of “that doesn’t even make any sense”. It doesn’t.


So what will you learn in the 42 minutes it takes to traverse ‘Swing Lo Magellan’? You’ll learn that they’re still the current daddies of this music and that their blend of measured insanity, expert harmonies and purely enjoyable songs that are both near impossible to recreate and simultaneously still easy to make noise along to, is still amongst the most infectious around.


‘Swing Lo Magellan’, the Dirty Projectors’ new album, is out today on Domino.

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