The Dirty Projectors : Swing Lo Magellan
The Dirty Projectors progenitor and frontman David Longstreth deals in extremes. The prefix “poly” is prevalent in pretty much every instance of discourse pertaining to his work – polyrhythmic, polymelodic, polymathematic. His vocal style is often compared to the of David Byrne, which both makes sense and doesn’t – Byrne is restrained to deadpan, Longstreth bounces the life out of each syllable. Swing Lo Magellen keeps some of those wildish impulses in check, but at the same time, it often jackknifes into far more transgressive territory. At times, it sounds a lot like Bitte Orca part two, and at times, it sounds nothing like what Dirty Projectors have produced before.
Album closer Irresponsible Tune bears a misnomer. it’s probably the most conventional track on the album, bar the title track. There are many moments of classic simplistic folk bliss, declaring that Dirty Projectors can do conventional, and that they can do it quite well.
Offsping Are Blank is very much a rock‘n’roll track – you can almost hear the Townsend-approved windmills in the chorus. It’s a dynamic that was prominent throughout Bitte Orca – that gentle lull leading up to an overblown blast of guitars. The rest of Swing Lo Magellan doesn’t readily employ that formula. The album’s 12 tracks are mostly stripped back compositions, but even with a limited palette the band’s tonal idiosyncrasies shine through. Unto Ceasar is a romp, deconstructing itself beyond the fourth wall with ad-libs such as “When should we bust into harmony?”, immediately before busting into harmony. See What She Seeing, an otherwise innocuous track, is permeated by an obnoxious rolling percussion which sounds much like a mechanical fault.
Lonsgreth’s inimitable vocals get their most extensive workout on the impassioned The Gun Has No Trigger. The tension of the haunting backup harmonies combine with the stripped back, pulsating instrumentation builds until the inevitable payoff of the chorus – pulling off a mean, tasteful display of vocal gymnastics.
The most pleasant surprise within Swing Lo Magellan is the bevy of love songs, none more brilliant than the heartwarming and endearing Impregnable Question. When the chorus swoons “You’re my love, and I want you in my life,” you believe it. Dance For You is equally sweet, nearly veering off the rails with a stratospheric string refrain before snapping right back down to welcoming terra firma.
It would be selling Swing Lo Magellan short to label it as being a more accessible strain of Dirty Projectors. Americana is explored, bastardised and worshipped, and the end product is something to behold.
BY LACHLAN KANONIUK
Key Track: Impregnable Question
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