Fire Note Says: Dirty Projectors give us a beautiful summertime headphone record!
Album Review: Is it possible for a record to be both avant garde and accessible at the same time,to be both simple and complex? If the record is Swing Lo Magellan, the new album from Dirty Projectors, the answer is most definitely YES! Following up 2009’s universally acclaimed Bitte Orca was not going to be an easy task for main vocalist/songwriter Dave Longstreth. That was one of the most complex records of the year, both melodically and musically. I don’t know if the band could have gone any further in that direction. Instead what they have done is scale back, but just a bit. The music is not as dense and all over the map. Where Bitte Orca dazzled with it’s musical ambition, Swing Lo Magellan does the same by showing some sonic restraint and an added maturity. Sometimes less is truly more! Don’t get the wrong idea though, this is still a complex record that isn’t likely to win over the masses, where Bitte Orca was a massive critical hit, for a lot of listeners, it was more of a love it or hate it relationship. Swing Lo Magellan is more like a love it or like it record, accessible enough to win over more listeners, but still weird enough to please long time fans.
As for the actual songs on the records, they are more laid back and longing. Think of them as more a collection of love songs and easy front porch music than a bold thematic statement. There are less vocal dynamics and more straightforward singing, though Longstreth’s impressive vocal chops are still on display, they seem less for show, and serve the actual song more. There is more depth and less of Orca’s showiness on Magellan’s standout tracks like the achingly beautiful album closer “Irresponsible Tune”. The first thing I thought of when I heard opening track “Offspring Are Blank”, was that I listening to an old spiritual song, and I think that was intentional on the bands part. It’s a little disorienting and yet it completely and perfectly sets the tone for the more serious yet uplifting, beautiful music that is about to unfold in your ears. Listen for the multiple layers on this album, from the production, to the songwriting, to the playing, and the singing. It’s a remarkably rich listening experience. You will hear something new each time you play it.
Key Tracks: “Irresponsible Tune”, “Gun Has No Trigger”, “Offspring Are Blank”
Artists With Similar Fire: Bon Iver / Sufjan Stevens / Animal Collective
-Reviewed by Kevin Poindexter