Whenever the Dirty Projectors put out material of any kind, then you listen â€“ no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Their 2009 album Bitte Orca was arguably their most masterful album. Any other release after would surely have a tough act to follow. Enter Swing Lo Magellan (via Domino Records), which is easily one of this yearâ€™s most anticipated albums. But if you were to strictly hold the latter to the standard of the former, you would be doing it somewhat of an injustice. It does, however, actually seem to build off of Bitte Orca, showing a faint sign of continuity and familiarity in terms of musical direction, rather than creating something completely new with an ambitious concept (ala The Getty Address and Rise Above). But regardless, just be glad that we have a new Dirty Projectors album; an â€œalbum full of songs, an album of songwritingâ€ stated by vocalist/songwriter Dave Longstreth.
Before delving into the album, it should be put into context on how the Dirty Projectors have gone through a slight change since we last saw them. Mainly the fact that core member Angel Deradoorian went on â€œhiatusâ€ with the band (presumably to venture out into more solo endeavors).
â€œOffspring Are Blankâ€ opens the album with superficial handclaps and a capella melodies from Amber Coffman and Haley Dekle. Another rhythmic layer is then added with electronic hip-hop-style beats (Longstreth said that certain hip-hop artists influenced the recording of the album) that accompany Longstreth. And in typical Dirty Projectors fashion, the instrumentation suddenly shifts to just an acoustic guitar that he sings over. But the transition isnâ€™t rough as it acts as a transition to bring in the crashing drums and an electric guitar riff.
If youâ€™re familiar with the band at all, then arranging seemingly spontaneous instruments together shouldnâ€™t be anything unusual. On â€œAbout to Die,â€ a polyrhythmic layer is created by bongos, drums, occasional drums, and a groove-like bass while the line â€œabout to dieâ€ echoes throughout.
One of the highlights of the album is also one of its most simplest, yet striking in â€œGun Has No Trigger.â€ The rhythm is created by a consistent and soft drum beat and a subtle bass line, but what carries this song is the vocals. The soulful melodies by Coffman and Dekle are soothing that rise along with Longstrethâ€™s yearns, hitting its climax when he yells out the line â€œwhen the gun has no triggerâ€ and the â€œoohsâ€ turn into gospel-esque â€œaahs.â€
The self-titled track is a nice change of pace as Longstreth sings with a delicate acoustic guitar and percussion with a steady beat in the background. Itâ€™s the shortest track on the album, but itâ€™s refreshing to hear a more stripped down side to the band that relaxes the rest of the album.
Coffman starts off â€œJust Like Chevronâ€ that features the handclaps once again and a intricate guitar work. It is another show of a polyrhythmic song with different textures that makes it emphasized with Longstrethâ€™s aggressive vocals that take over for the rest of the song. But on â€œThe Socialites,â€ Coffman takes over lead vocal duties that feature intricate guitar plucking and wobbling synths. Her way of prolonging notes and hitting her highs at certain moments is reminiscent of modern day R&B that has a tinge of soul within. It demonstrates really well on how well of a more-than capable singer she can be.
On single â€œDance For You,â€ his vocals are given a reverb effect that makes it echo throughout the song, especially on his harmonies. The song is carried by handclaps and guitar until itâ€™s just these spontaneous strings that build tension for a matter of seconds. It eventually goes back to its original arrangement, but the strings stay put, lingering in the background to close out the song.
â€œMaybe That Was Itâ€ is a guitar-driven track thatâ€™s filled with that distorted twang effect, showing a hint of psychedelic rock during the late 70s. They keep their sound in the past with â€œImpregnable Questionâ€ and â€œSee What She Seeing.â€ Both delve into the 60s rock and pop categories while covering the themes of romance and love. On the former, Longstreth sings in the ballad â€œBut I need you/and youâ€™re always on my mindâ€ over a piano melody. On the latter, he sings about longing and searching for a loved one over string arrangements: â€œeverywhere I go, I see her/everywhere I look she disappears/every time I think I found her/just what I found is unclear.â€ The Beatles easily come into mind when taking into account their song structure while listening to these three songs. And on both, Coffman joins in and harmonizes with Longstreth on a few lines while throwing in a couple of vocal melodies as well that makes it a bit more romantic.
â€œUnto Caesarâ€ is a rather unique track even in Dirty Projectors standards. The actual production and recording of the track is mixed with these spontaneous moments in the recording studio. For example, while Longstreth is singing, moments between Coffman and Dekle asking when to do the harmonies or asking if theyâ€™re supposed to sing and saying it doesnâ€™t make sense. This method gives the listener some insight into the recording and writing process, but its inclusion provides the track a rather witty and light-hearted perspective. It makes you question if these moments were actually scripted or candid. But the choice of doing so doesnâ€™t distract away from the overall track. Instead, it provides another point of view to listen to the track and how both the candid moments and actual music work correspond to each other.
With Swing Lo Magellan, the Dirty Projectors have yet again crafted another appealing and solid album. Itâ€™s probably their most grounded and accessible album to date, but they still keep their signature intricacy and complexity in their music. A wide range of influences are stark â€“ from 60s pop to contemporary R&B â€“ throughout the album while still incorporating their unique progressive sound into it. Nothing feels awkward or out of place because somehow, someway, what ever vision Longstreth has in his mind, he will carry it out to the best of his abilities and we all just have to trust him.
With Swing Lo Magellan, David Longstreth shows he really doesn’t know how to do the same thing twice. This time, beyond the aughts-era duality of retromania and neophilia, and beyond his band’s reputation for dizzying, heady innovation, Longstreth has found the beautiful, generous simplicity of the heart and soul. Same as it ever was. And this must be exactly the place where he’s planted the seeds for his band’s newest, finest album so far: Swing Lo Magellan.
Where prior DPz albums investigated 20th-century orchestration (The Getty Address), aerated the aesthetics of 80s hardcore and west African guitar music (Rise Above), and explored complex contrapuntal techniques in human voices (Bitte Orca and Mt Wittenberg Orca), Swing Lo Magellan is a leap forward again.
“It’s an album of songs, an album of songwriting,” says Longstreth.
The songs of Swing Lo Magellan are culled from a sprawling twelve months of constant writing and recording in a weird house in Delaware County, New York (four hours northwest of the city). Longstreth, who produced and mixed, wrote seventy new songs and beats. The band — Amber Coffman (vocals & guitar), Nat Baldwin (Bass), Brian McOmber (Drums) & Haley Dekle (vocals) – - joined him periodically, rehearsing the new music more or less constantly in the house’s A-frame attic (vocalist Angel Deradoorian is on hiatus). The twelve songs of Swing Lo Magellan were winnowed down from about forty finished demos. The finished recordings bear the impress of this informal working style: the album is a collection of moments: accidental, fortuitous, spontaneous. The performances feel warm and imperfect. Unguarded intimacy is somewhat of a new look for this band, and it turns out it’s a very good look.
Longstreth’s production complements the turn, with an aesthetic that explodes in two directions at once. The live-in-the-room quality of the performances, the grain of the voices and amps contrasts with the rich orchestral layering of Longstreth’s arrangements for contemporary ensemble yMusic and the sheen and blast of his beat programming. The album 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.
Listen to the new song “Gun Has No Trigger”: www.dirtyprojectors.net
Swing Lo Magellan Tracklist:
1. Offspring Are Blank
2. About to Die
3. Gun Has No Trigger
4. Swing Lo Magellan
5. Just From Chevron
6. Dance For You
7. Maybe That Was It
8. Impregnable Question
9. See What She Seeing
10. The Socialites
11. Unto Caesar
12. Irresponsible Tune
Dirty Projectors Tour Dates:
July 10 – Brooklyn NY – Prospect Park Bandshell
July 13-15 (exact date TBA) – Chicago IL – Pitchfork Festival
French indie rockers Phoenix are slowly releasing dates for their upcoming fall tour. A headlining show at the world famous Madison Square Garden has been announced for October 20th. Dirty Projectorsare set to support. The pre-sale for the show begins July 12th through AMEX. Check out all announced dates below.
July 15: Montreux Jazz Festival, Montreux, Switzerland
July 16: Les Francofolies, La Rochelle, France
July 17: Les Vieilles Charrues, Carhaix, France
July 18: Musilac, Aix-les-Bains, France
July 28: Les Voix du Gaou, Six-Fours, France
July 29: Festival de Carcassonne, Carcassonne, France
July 30: iTunes Festival, London, UK
July 31: Field Day Festival, London, UK
August 7: Lollapalooza Festival, Chicago, IL, USA
August 8: Lollapalooza After Show at House of Blues, Chicago, IL, USA
August 9: The Pageant, St. Louis, MO, USA
August 10: 7 Flags Event Center, Des Moines, IA, USA
August 12: State Theater, Minneapolis, MN, USA
August 13: Harrahâ€™s, Council Bluffs, IA, USA
August 14: Mile High Music Festival, Denver, CO, USA
August 27: Reading Festival, Reading, Berkshire, UK
August 28: The Edge Festival, HMV Picture House, Edinburgh
August 29: Leeds Festival, Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK
September 18: Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, CA, USA
September 19: Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
September 21: Open Air Theatre, San Diego, CA, USA
September 22: The Pearl, Las Vegas, NV, USA
September 23: The Rail, Salt Lake City, UT, USA
September 26: PNE Forum, Vancouver, BC, CAN
September 28: Sports Palace, Mexico City, DF, MEX
October 20: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, USA
The Roots will be dropping another full-length album on June 22, titled How I Got Over. The album will feature respected artists Jim James, Joanna Newsom, members of the Dirty Projectors, Patty Crash, John Legend, and Blu, as well as members of the Legendary Roots Crew.
Download “Dear God 2.0″ for free here
Pre-order How I Got Over here
1. Interlude 1 feat. Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian & Haley Dekle of Dirty Projectors
2. Walk Alone feat. Truck North, P.O.R.N. & Dice Raw
3. Dear God 2.0 feat. Monsters Of Folk
4. Radio Daze feat. Blu, P.O.R.N. & Dice Raw
5. Now Or Never feat. Phonte & Dice Raw
6. How I Got Over feat. Dice Raw
7. Interlude 2
8. The Day feat. Blu, Phonte & Patty Crash
9. Right On feat. Joanna Newsom & STS
10. Doin’ It Again
11. The Fire feat. John Legend
12. Interlude 3
13. Web 20/20 feat. Peedi Peedi & Truck North
BONUS* Hustla feat. STS
Last night, Mos Def & Talib Kweli stopped by Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to perform “History” with Amber Coffman and Haley Dekle of Dirty Projectors and The Roots. Check out the video below: