Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan (Domino)
July 19, 2012 by Laurence Gardner
There’s a moment during Dirty Projectors new release, Swing Lo Magellan, the Brooklyn bands 6th, when vocalist and guitarist Amber Coffman asks the question, “When shall we bust in the harmonies?” It’s a question that appears more than expected, as the majority of tracks on the album use the members vocals as its key instrument, and whilst past releases, whether collaborations with Bjork on previous release Mount Wittenberg Orca, or recreating Black Flags Damaged album purely from memory, have used the humming and ooh-ing, it’s Swing Lo Magellan that seems to have finally capitalised on the bands use of vocals at their full power.
The album opens up with Offspring Are Blank, beginning with a mixture of handclaps and humming as group founder David Longstreth starts singing of “each generation different,” being a possible sign of what’s to come before being interrupted by a burst of schizophrenic guitar and drums. It’s the traditional quiet, loud, quiet song structure so commonly used by guitar driven bands.
Elsewhere lead single Gun Has No Trigger recalls a minimalist Talking Heads, as Longstreth croons and wails, sounding not too dissimilar to David Byrne, with whom the band collaborated on the Dark Was the Night compilation, whilst a jumping bass line and its rhythm drive the song along.
While the albums title track is perhaps the most collected song the band have recorded, replacing the usual range of vocals, with solely Longstreth, a beat and an acoustic guitar that drifts along throughout.
Meanwhile the enchanting Dance For You Longstreth coo’s and sings “There is an answer, I haven’t found it, but I will keep dancing till I do,” And as violins play over the repeated hook of the chorus, it’s easy to see the reasoning behind the band being covered by Solange Knowles, sister of Beyonce on previous single Stillness is the Move from 2009’s Bitta Orca.
The albums highlight comes in the form of Unto Caesar; opening with an erratic lead guitar line before a relaxed beat kicks in whilst the playful back and forth of vocals gives the impression of a band fully at ease with one another.
Swing Lo Magellan is surely Dirty Projectors most outstanding and focused record to date, with Longstreth having changed his focus from writing albums with unifying themes, to individualistic songs, and in the process has foregone the complex and perhaps difficult tag, without sacrificing anything in the way of experimentation.