Album Review: Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

posted on Jul.03, 2012

Dirty Projectors
“Swing Lo Magellan”
Hailing From: Brooklyn, NY
Release Number: 6th
Genre: R&B-influenced indie pop
Label: Domino

Dirty Projector’s breakthrough 2009 album Bitte Orca put the band into the spotlight of the indie world.  While Swing Lo Magellan is their sixth album, in many ways it feels like a sophomore effort. Dirty Projectors are known for reinventing their sound with each album, mostly at the whim of leader Dave Longstreth. Swing Lo Magellan is the first album that really builds on the sound of its predecessor. However, while Bitte Orca was all about building intricate arrangements, Magellan focuses more on hooks. This is Dirty Projector’s most accessible and straightforward album yet.


That being said, this album is by no means simple. The arrangements are still lush and layered; the harmonies are exquisitely pulled off. Much like Beach House’s Bloom, the album feels like it’s from a band that knows what they can do successfully and pull it off with ease.

The R&B influence that was seen most prominently on Bitte Orca’s lead single “Stillness is the Move” is even more prominent on this album. From the schoolyard handclaps that serve as the background on “Just From Chevron” and “Dance for You” to the skittering beats on “About to Die” definitely take their cues from Top 40 radio. In an interview with Pitchfork, Longstreth mentioned both Nicki Minaj and Kanye West as influences.

Longstreth has been adamant that Swing Lo Magellan should be seen as a collection of songs, rather than an album based on a concept like Bitte Orca or 2007’s Rise Above. By taking a step back and trying to analyze what makes a song work, Longstreth has put out his strongest release to date. The lyrics are less obtuse, the hooks are stronger, and the songs are more well constructed than any of the Projector’s past work. One only has to listen to “Gun Has No Trigger” or “Dance For You” to understand the immediacy these songs provide. Swing Lo Magellan carves for itself a distinct place in the indie pop sphere is Dirty Projector’s strongest release yet.

– James Rettig, Program Director

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