Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo MagellanPosted by Andrew Ryan Cassin
In 2009, Dirty Projectors set off a shimmering, shattering, broken bombast in the form of Bitte Orca. It was an effervescent explosion of angular, off-kilter guitar, loose drumming and vocal melodies shooting off in every direction. Now, all that shrapnel and broken glass come to rest on the beaches, in the form of Swing Lo Magellan – a distillation of the band that softens all the edges and exposes their interior sheen. This is likely the closest Dave Longstreth and company will get to a pop record friendly for the masses.
Lead single “Gun Has No Trigger” sports an odd simplicity unlike anything Dirty Projectors have done before. Longstreth drops the guitar altogether to serve as true frontman. Bass and drums slink through a sultry R&B while he croons and howls like a late 70’s Elvis Costello. He dictates the litany of a man’s shortcomings with a cool wit and wry smile.
The album’s namesake is a nod to the opportunities and perils of following the lead of GPS navigation – where it can get you and just how wrong it can steer you. To it’s credit the band’s own Magellan has led them northward up the California coast, away from the suburban sprawl of the “Temecula Sunrise” to the Big Sur shimmer of the title song. They’ve settled and cooled. It’s apparent in the cooing of Amber Coffman and Haley Dekle – the duo now noticeably without Angel Deradoorian. Where they were the horses threatening to pull apart each song on Bitte Orca, they now are the relaxed, in-tune adhesion underlying the majority of Swing Lo Magellan.
Despite the calm consistency on this LP, Dirty Projectors have not left us without a few surprises. The album’s standout is the epic, amphitheater filling “Maybe That Was It.” The song is a slow, deep piece of prog-rock, with Longstreth’s guitar and voice both howling to the moon. It’s a primitively romantic end to the most hot, star-filled of summer nights.
Swing Lo Magellan may not display the same upfront, non-stop energy and fight of its predecessors, but it proves the band were not just succeeding in a brief heat. Oddball they may be, Dirty Projectors have shown themselves capable of a broader accessibility and longevity through stretching slowly out in every direction their GPS can take them.