Dirty Projectors have attracted a number of comparisons to other artists throughout their relatively long 10 year span as a band, ranging from the pop singer Beyoncé to progressive rock musicians of old (to which frontman David Longstreth says “Frank Zappa I ****ing hate.”) Whether Longstreth likes it or not, one can clearly hear many influences in their latest July release, Swing Lo Magellan, yet there is no denying that the album has further cemented their unique sound since their renowned Bitte Orca release of 2009.
While the band has always been an advocate of change in musical direction, Longstreth claims to have more personal lyrics in Swing Lo Magellan, as well as less of an overarching theme and more of a collection of individual works. The album certainly seems darker when compared to Bitte Orca, and the individualism of each song contributes to a much more straightforward direction rather than its predecessor’s variant, mish mashed feeling.
Swing Lo Magellan starts off strong with several accessible tracks containing the up and down vocals of Longstreth and the goose bumps-inducing, three-part harmonics of Amber Coffman and her other two female band mates. The cool and rhythmic first single “Gun Has No Trigger” has especially pronounced harmonics, and puts emphasis on the beat much like the rest of the album. It is possibly the steadiest and most consistent track the band has created to date, compared to their many avant-garde tracks with unpredictable middle sections and endings. “Just From Chevron” is another standout track which Coffman begins with her melodic singing, accompanied by catchy clapping and a soft guitar riff.
As the second half of the album progresses, the tracks begin to blend together into a raw, almost seemingly incomplete collection of songs. Raw to the point where you can hear one of the female singers ask when she should start singing in the track “Unto Caesar.” Needless to say, this does not detract from the listener’s enjoyment Swing Lo Magellan can offer. Just as Longstreth tries to bring us to a more personal level in his lyrics, the unedited commentary gives us a more personal perspective. As for me, personally, I find the album to be gratifying and my favorite Dirty Projectors release to date.