Dirty Projectors
Swing Lo Magellan


4.0
excellent

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
July 12th, 2012 | 110 replies | 17,994 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A brilliant blend of the outer limits and the down-to-earth.

For a decade now, Brooklyn-based experimental rockers Dirty Projectors have been providing an unconventional listening experience. Their penchant for throwing odd time signatures, thumping bass lines, mesmerizing vocals, and electronic elements into a blender and seeing what comes out the other side has yielded surprisingly consistent results – especially considering their brazen exploration of any and all things weird. Their last effort, Bitte Orca, was also one of their most well received. After developing some pop sensibilities to match their burgeoning experimental energy, their music became the perfect blend of what was interesting and what made sense. Thus, it should come as no surprise that their follow-up, 2012’s Swing Lo Magellan, is another step in that direction. Here, Dirty Projectors are more direct than ever before, resulting in a sound that is finally as approachable as it is structurally explorative.

The key to their new found accessibility lies in the candidness of the lyrics, which are delivered with more clarity and emotion than ever before. It doesn’t take long to discover this with ‘Offspring Are Blank’ leading the charge, a track that possesses delicately constructed metaphors such as “your words were like raindrops from a storm in a vase” and effortlessly deep lines like “he was made to love her, she was made to love him.” In a way, the balance between complex and simple imagery keeps pace with Dirty Projector’s musical evolution – always branching out and looking to push the limit, yet still knowing when to rein things in. Compared to prior works, Swing Lo Magellan really hones in on the band’s idealistic side, carving sentiments out of questions concerning love, life, fate, and “a world – crooked, fucked up and wrong.” The latter quote stems from the record’s echoing, crooning closer ‘Irresponsible Tune’ – a track that beckons for hope to arrive in the form of “a bird singing at my window”, but concedes that “it’s singing an irresponsible tune.” Whether it is carefully thought out passages such as this or straightforward declarations (“you’re my love, and I want you in my life”), Swing Lo Magellan rings out with a sense of profound insight and romanticism. In the midst of Dirty Projectors’ meandering compositions, what they put down on paper evokes just as strong of a response as the music they play.

Oh yeah, the music. While it’s true that Dirty Projectors have cleaned up their gritty sound, it doesn’t end up costing them their reputation. They are still recognizably unsettled, constantly seeking out new ways to drive their music onto unfamiliar terrain and, ultimately, to greater heights. “Accessible” qualities (I’m hesitant to call it pop) have been woven into their fabric, but they are still far from pervading. There is an excellent balance of male and female vocals, frantic bass lines, unpredictable tempos, crisp production versus more of a lo-fi approach, and – essentially – most of the things we’ve all come to love about Dirty Projectors. It’s not as crazy or as unorthodox as you might be used to, but the minor adjustments made to give Swing Lo Magellan a sleeker sound are offset by the emergence of the aforementioned lyrical/vocal aspects, not to mention a surprising aptitude for conventional indie-rock. Some of the most impressive tracks actually come when the band leans entirely towards a sleeker, smoother sound. Just take ‘Impregnable Question’ for example; the song exists on a canvas consisting of nothing more than simple piano notes, a back-and-forth drum beat, and the occasional tambourine. Despite the basic instrumentation, the brilliant vocal harmonies put just the right amount of polish on the song to make it feel like a lustrous gem. ‘Unto Ceaser’ and ‘Irresponsible Tune’ follow suit, thriving mostly on melodic qualities while pushing experimentalism to the wayside. But fret not, because if Swing Lo Magellan is two parts cleanliness, it is still three parts erratic and volatile. Most of the songs here are bouncing ideas all over the place, from the wild drumming and frenzied verse-to-chorus changes in ‘About to Die’ to the random orchestral section in the middle of ‘Dance For You.’ There’s no shortage of bizarreness to pacify your inner hipster, even if the end result is an output that is relatively simple compared to their prior works.

It would be easy for listeners (especially long time fans) to disregard this album initially because it is Dirty Projector’s most contained effort. However, it would be a crime to make any rash judgments about an album that completes such an admirable transition. The band certainly doesn’t sound one hundred percent confident (or even comfortable) moving into more accessible territory, but their fidgetiness results in one of the most intriguing listens of the year. They aren’t ready to pack up their creative side yet (and thankfully they probably never will), giving us a brilliant blend of the outer limits and the down-to-earth. It’s a sensation that’s hard to get used to, but it feels great once you’ve grasped its magnitude.



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user ratings (179)
Chart.
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
derho (3)
A bit tame compared to earlier work, Swing Lo still provides enough good material to warrant your at...


Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
July 11th 2012



15546 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Streaming here:

http://music.aol.com/new-releases-full-cds/spinner#/1

Digging: The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream

Xenophanes
Emeritus
July 11th 2012



10592 Comments


I actually really enjoyed this. Excellent review!

Gyromania
July 11th 2012



15449 Comments


burgeoning. I like that word. Good work, Sowing, I'll take a listen.

Also, I feel like I would adore that album cover if the people were removed from it.

Gyromania
July 12th 2012



15449 Comments


This album is a lot of fun so far. I should probably look into their last album too, eh?

ZedO
July 12th 2012



1096 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

enjoyable album, a 3.5 is more reasonable for me..

ThunderNeutral21
July 12th 2012



3864 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

probably sucks

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
July 12th 2012



4400 Comments


Yeah, This was pretty good.

Digging: Shabazz Palaces - Lese Majesty

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
July 12th 2012



23800 Comments


Bitte Orca took ages to grow on me, but grow it did. I guess I better get started with this one now...

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
July 12th 2012



7021 Comments


love-hate relationship with bitte orca, this goes down easier

Digging: FKA twigs - LP1

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
July 12th 2012



23800 Comments


but is there any

"ooooooooheeeeeeeaaaaaawooooo teeeeeeeeeeee mah culaaaaaaaaah suuuuuuuunriiiiiiiiiise"

?

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
July 12th 2012



15546 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is an easier listen than bitte orca, but its still experimental

robin
Emeritus
July 12th 2012



4247 Comments


blah

MaskAtTheMasquerade
July 12th 2012



2887 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

dance4u dance4u dance4u

Tyrael
July 12th 2012



20795 Comments


aw yea

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
July 12th 2012



15546 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

You like this tyrael?

Tyrael
July 12th 2012



20795 Comments


Dunno, haven't heard it yet

but I liked Bitte Orca

BaconCopter
July 12th 2012



9 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Excellent album, definitely not as psychedelic/experimental as Bitte Orca, but while they may be stepping closer to a more "main stream accessible" sound Dirty Projectors have not lost any of their off the wall ingenuity or musical complexity.

klap
Staff Reviewer
July 12th 2012



10304 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

initially i liked this and then realized its still dirty projectors so there's a limit to my love

Digging: Literature - Chorus

klap
Staff Reviewer
July 12th 2012



10304 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

also pretty surprised that sowing likes this

robin
Emeritus
July 12th 2012



4247 Comments


title track is exactly what i want from this album

rudy



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