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Swing Lo Magellan

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Audio CD, July 10, 2012
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Editorial Reviews

On Dirty Projectors sixth album, Swing Lo Magellan, songwriter and leader David Longstreth shows he really doesn't know how to do the same thing twice. Where prior Dirty Projectors albums investigated 20th-century orchestration, west African guitar music and complex contrapuntal techniques in human voices, Swing Lo Magellan is a leap forward again. It's an album of songs, an album of songwriting. Swing Lo Magellan has both the handmade intimacy of a love letter and the widescreen grandeur of a blockbuster, and if that sounds like a paradox -- it's because it was until now.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 10, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Domino
  • ASIN: B0082A3GRY
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,885 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Rock on July 10, 2012
Format: Audio CD
I've been slowly warming up to Dirty Projectors ever since hearing their 2009 release, Bitte Orca. Hailed as a masterpiece of art pop by most critics, the album received a more divisive reaction from the hoi polloi. Tending to naturally lean toward the poppier songs on an album, my immediate favorite was "Two Doves." Overall, I felt that a lot of the album was art for art's sake and its finicky experimentalism prevented me from truly enjoying Bitte Orca as a whole.

With the release of Swing Lo Magellan, the band has veered off into a completely different direction altogether. The sparse string arrangements, African guitars, and crazy drumming remain intact but the focus on pop song structure is a notable change. Indie quirkiness takes a backseat to melody on this album, and the result is some of the best hooks I have ever encountered on a Dirty Projectors record. People are calling this record their most accessible yet - the perfect balance of musical intellectualism and pure pop. Here's my take, track-by-track.

Offspring Are Blank - The first song on the album opens in typical Dirty Projectors fashion, with those excellent female backup vocals, but it isn't long until the song breaks into a 70's fuzz-rock chorus. (6/10)

About to Die - This might be the best example of the tightrope the band walks between pop and obscure. The verses are sporadic and lyrical but the chorus is simple and extremely catchy. When the strings come in, it adds an amazing element to the song. (10/10)

Gun Has No Trigger - Likely the most minimalistic song on the album, Gun Has No Trigger consists mainly of voices, singing over drums and a very funky bass line. This song does indeed sound as if it were pulled from a James Bond film.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Red on Black on July 10, 2012
Format: Audio CD
In 2009 Brooklyn wonders the Dirty Projectors produced an album of such sheer invention entitled "Bitte Orca" that when they released it it should have come with a patent. The name "Talking Heads" is generally bandied around when it comes to this band but frankly what both bands really share in common is a sense of inventiveness and most importantly a desire to produce music that taxes your brain cells. The inventor in chief in the band is a real "Smart Alec" named David Longstreth who studied classical composition at Yale University and brings with him a desire to test, tease and on occasions torment in terms of his musical constructions. He also had within the band Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian two female singers blessed with voices that could melt polar ice caps not least in fabulous songs like "Stillness is the move" and the the ravishing beauty contained in the orchestral highs of 'Two Doves".

It appears that for Longstreth's latest offering "Swing Lo Magellan" that regular vocalist, Angel Deradoorian, is on a bit of a hiatus although Coffman remains present. Indeed she takes control on one of the major highlights on this album the bubbling and minimalist funk of the wonderful "The socialites" which for the curious should be the point of entry in this cerebral but largely accessible album. Opening track "Offspring are blank" starts with a good old humming sound from a mix of male and female voices and loops it way through a clever song structure laid out by Longstreth which is punctuated by an impertinent noisy rock guitar which rudely but effectively breaks the gentle flow of the song.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By T. A. Daniel on July 13, 2012
Format: MP3 Music
Recorded across one year and 40 demos, The Dirty Projector's SWING LO MAGELLAN has made its way out of the studio. Written, arranged, mixed, produced, by David Longstreth, this album was meant to be more personal and eclectic than previous releases. Strangely, this album feels more complete than others (even 2009's very good BITTE ORCA), while maintaining Longstreth's promise that these songs wouldn't be united by a single theme or style.

The Dirty Projectors is a band that is constantly experimenting with its own sound. This album is no different, but it feels much looser than past releases. Where other albums felt conscious about the experimentation that was taking place, SWING LO MAGELLAN feels much less thought out; instead, many of the vocal flares and instrumental flourishes sound improvised or instinctual. It feels less like Longstreth is trying to be interesting and more like he's having fun writing music. The second half of the album doesn't quite live up to the fantastic first half of SWING LO MAGELLAN; "The Socialites," doesn't have a good enough melody to support itself. "Unto Caesar" and its dragging strings slow the song down to a crawl. "Irresponsible Tune," while an interesting choice to finish the album, doesn't meet their rest of the album's emotional heights.

Stylistically, this album is all over the place. The ripping guitar riff that interrupts quiet intro track "Offspring Are Blank" could have come out of Fugazi. The go-for-broke vocals in "About to Die" and "Unto Caesar" are reminiscent of Animal Collective. The rhythmic meter and crooning of "See What You're Seeing" recalls a great Hot Chip track.
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