Dirty Projectors - Swing Low Magellan
After releasing Bjork collaboration Mount Wittenberg Orca in 2010, Dirty Projector’s once again displayed an apt talent for diversity. Though ... Orca was a difficult record, it was rich in style and carried an unmistakable identity, showing that the artists weren’t all that far apart in their musical approach. However, with each subsequent Dirty Projectors LP, frontman Dave Longstreth has never appeared to adhere to convention, consistently dodging any stigma that one record may bring. The last Dirty Projectors studio album, 2009’s Bitte Orca played around with the human voice, using harmonious female vocals as if they were additional backing instruments under Dave’s foreground croon.
So, where does Swing Lo Magellan fit in? First of all, this is arguably one of the band’s most conventional and accessible recordings. While Bitte Orca was a pleasure to warm to, this time Longstreth rewards listeners with a more straight talking affair. Album opener 'Offspring Are Blank' breaks in with a series of male voices farcically ‘hmmming’ in harmony, only to be abruptly ended by Longstreth clearing his throat and slipping into verse. Soon enough, the female backing vocals are back but they don’t suffocate the music like they often did last time. It’s a breezy kick to the start of what is mostly a bright album, crafted no doubt to suit its summertime release date.
Mid album highlight 'Dance For You' best demonstrates the albums optimism; conventional rhythm guitar is ditched in favour of cheery handclaps while layered guitar licks dance over Dave’s oddly endearing cries. The use of string arrangements throughout finally give the Dirty Projector’s a quality which has long been missing on much of their studio work: warmth. When the orchestra kick through midway in 'Dance For You', it’s as if the song is cradling the listeners emotions and shows Dave’s collective aren’t quite the cold, Brooklyn experimentalists they often seem to be.
Penultimate track 'Unto Caesar' may divide listeners: midway through the vocalists begin laughing and giving prompts as to which part of the song is coming as if caught candid in a demo session. The band all join in together and the vocals sound rough and ready. It gives the album a personal touch and shows they are not afraid to expose the joy that goes into recording this music. Swing Lo Magellan is both a record with immediate thrills but also, like Bitte Orca, one to savour and explore with a keen ear.