Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

Experimental goes melodic pop.... But only a little bit.

Released: 09/07/2012 on Domino

Hailing from Brooklyn, the very tricky-to-pigeonhole Dirty Projectors have a varied and interesting back catalogue of work, including a concept record about Don Henley (yes, really) and, more recently, a collaboration with alt-darling Bjork. Latest LP Swing Low Magellan sees them embrace a generally more accessible sound filled with glorious harmonies and even the occasional beautifully simple folk song (see title track). But there is more to it than that, and not all of it I liked...

The record begins bravely with an extended acapella intro to ‘Offspring Are Blank’, with no guitar hitting the sing until about two thirds of the way through. There are songs which have very drawn out beginnings which I really love like ‘The Frame’ by Oceansize – but it only works if, like in ‘The Frame’, the drawn out intro really builds into something glorious, and this song does not manage that.

Redemption, however, is found in the form of single ‘The Gun Has No Trigger’. This track is fairly minimal instrumentation-wise however this time the harmonised backing vocals are used to maximum effect first gently oohing and aahing then building to crescendo in the perfect place. A definite high point of the album.

‘Just From Chevron’ is a track that manages to marry a catchy melody with some quirky guitar and timings. I also enjoy the use of hand-claps. I am a fan of hand-claps.

‘Maybe That Was It’ is somewhat overpowered by the detuning guitar sounds it uses. All the way through I just keep thinking about how it sounds like me when I can't get my G-string to tune properly... yes for some reason the G-string is always the troublesome one. It’s a shame because the Cardiacs-esque melody is interesting.

There is definite warmth to this album but it just doesn’t resonate quite the whole way through the record. In places it is quite lovely, but sadly those tracks do not complement the more experimental moments on the record, instead making them appear irritatingly obtuse. What we are left with is something which doesn’t quite tie together in a cohesive way. What is there is very well executed but I couldn’t help feeling that I was listening to 2 albums on shuffle... One which I liked much better than the other.

Turn On: Gun Has No Trigger, Swing Lo Magellan

Turn Off: About To Die

UnderSong Rating
6/10 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆