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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dirty Projectors' Swing Lo Magellan: A First Listen

Posted By on Wed, Jul 11, 2012 at 8:48 AM

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"Impregnable Question"

Aaand we're back to the pop stuff. More layering -- piano notes, a softly spanked snare drum, occasional tambourine shakes. "You're my love/And I want you in my life." This is the most straightforward love song you might ever hear Dirty Projectors play. Enjoy it while it lasts; it's not even three minutes long.

"See What She Seeing"

"Onward through the murk and the uncertainty," Longstreth sings on this one. It's another love song, but more complex - both in terms of its themes and its instrumentation. A hybrid electronic/acoustic beat swirls around yet more off-kilter robo-guitar licks. It's becoming clear that this album is more a collection of isolated moments and feelings than an attempt at one cohesive narrative. Stylistically, it keeps ping-ponging between sweetness, confusion, and turbulent aggression. If they had wanted to, Dirty Projectors could have produced three mini-albums out of the material they have here.

"The Socialites"

A study in social insecurity, complete with mewing keyboard swells and a jangly beat that conjures to mind expensive trinkets being chucked into a trashcan. You can hear the fury in Amber Coffman's voice as she scolds the listener: "The socialites who act so nice/ Won't ever begin to let you in/ They'll act surprised/ They'll apologize/ Won't ever let on/ The face you're wearing is wrong." There's something provocative in this blunt aggression. It's as if the band finally got sick of trying to sketch their message and just blurted it out.

"Unto Caesar"

Far and away the densest, most richly composed track on the album. A string section whines mournfully during the verses, then blooms into a stunning chorus, complete with saxophones and ascending harmonies. This is the direction I think a lot of people wanted Dirty Projectors to head with the release of Swing Lo Magellan. Instead, they went in 10 different directions. All the layers make the twee speak/sing ad-libbing in between verses almost tolerable. Almost. But damn, though. That chorus.

"Irresponsible Tune"

Longstreth, alone with his guitar, muses on the point of creating music. It would be easy to dismiss this tune as a wannabe cowboy lullaby, sung by a throaty brainiac, if its message weren't so simple -- and heartfelt: "With our songs, we are outlaws/ With our songs we're alone/ But without songs we're lost/ And life is pointless, harsh and long." Enough said.

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