For the entirety of 2011, Dirty Projectors’s main man, David Longstreth, locked himself away in a house in Delaware County, NY and wrote 70 tracks. He managed to whittle it down to Swing Lo Magellan – 12 songs that smack of intimacy, solitude and a touch of cabin fever.
It’s a bumpy ride. One minute you’re lulled by gentle cooing (as on the title track) or swept away by string arrangements (‘Dance for You’), then suddenly you’re hit by screeching (‘About to Die’).
But Longstreth has always been a bit of a loose cannon, able to turn belligerent song structures into something pleasing to the ear. Look back at The Getty Address, the quintet’s third, percussion-heavy, choral concept album about Don Henley, or Rise Above, a reimagining of Cali hardcore punks Black Flag’s LP Damaged, with its guy-girl harmonies and schizophrenic rhythms, and you’ll see that contrast; awkwardness and surprise have always been in the Projectors’ arsenal. So when, on Swing Lo Magellan, the finger-plucked riffs and handclaps of ‘Just From Chevron’ start aping Ghanaian highlife, you know it’s par for the course. Similarly, Amber Coffman’s Regina Spektor-styled vocal solo during ‘The Socialites’ is a welcome addition.
It may lack an element of surprise, but Swing Lo Magellan is certainly arresting. In true DP style, it leaps all over the place in such a slick manner that even when Longstreth is wailing like an interned banshee, you’ll remain steadfast that Dirty Projectors can do no wrong. Danielle Goldstein