Top positive review
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The Sound and the Fury
on July 10, 2012
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. (10/10)
Swing Lo Magellan - In the title track, Dave Longstreth slips into a Lou Reed singing voice for a song that sounds as if it were right off of The Velvet Underground's eponymous album. The simple folk melody and soft vocals are an unexpected surprise. (8/10)
Just From Chevron - Somewhat reminiscent of "Stillness on the Move," this track features a notable blend of both male and female lead vocals. The lyrical theme here is a dark reminder of 2010's disastrous oil spill. (6/10)
Dance For You - This is possibly the most pop-conscious track on the album. If interesting indie music were ever played on the radio (instead of that one song by Gotye), this song would be a hit. Simple, sweet lyrics that sound unusually sincere and less abstract than Longstreth's usual fare. (10/10)
Maybe That Was It - I was picking up some major Pink Floyd vibes from this track. Its effortless classic rock vibe is obvious, though it sounds to me a little more like a skip track on a Pink Floyd album. (5/10)
Impregnable Question - Piano hits, female oo's, walking bassline, acoustic guitar, tambourine... this song is pure Motown. It's catchy as anything I've heard all year and it sounds like a rare find, pulled out of a milk crate of old records. (10/10)
See What She Seeing - This track is pleasant enough. The strings in the background add a nice touch to a song that would otherwise seem empty. (6/10)
The Socialites - The only song on the album without David Longstreth's vocals, The Socialites is a lyrically straightforward take on snobs. It can be summed up in one line, "I'm glad they're the ones on the other side of the glass." Notice the synthesizers in the background purring like alien cats throughout. (8/10)
Unto Caesar - Sounding a little like a hippie jam, "Unto Caesar" sounds strangely like something that could be played at Woodstock at its best, and similar to a Dave Matthews B-side at its worst. "When should we bust into harmony?" is a great hidden line in there. (6/10)
Irresponsible Tune - A soulful album closer. It almost sounds like a modern take on a classic blues song that nobody ever heard. (7/10)
Overall, this album is a huge step in the right direction if this band seeks to widen their appeal. Thanks for reading.