Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

On Swing Lo Magellan, Dirty Projectors reign in the high-concept grandeur of Bitte Orca (2009) and play it a little straighter. Even in attempting to make a more “accessible” album though, David Longstroeth and co move further into uncharted territory, expanding the vocabulary of pop music almost by accident. Even “straight” moments like the fuzzed-out chorus of ‘Offspring Are Blank’ are offset by a sub-bass-anchored, arabesque a capella verse.

Familiar elements like prog flourishes, extravagant vocal harmonies, and Longstroeth’s David Byrne-in-a-blender voice are joined by labyrinthine polyrhythms, dashes of hip-hop, string sections and studio chatter, creating an ADD-friendly profusion of ideas, both exciting and exhausting. Most affecting, though, are the gentle lullabies ‘Dance for You’ and ‘Impregnable Question’; simple paens to domesticity, they are all the more touching for their juxtaposition next to the freaked-out, free-jazzin’ ‘Maybe That Was It’.

Though perhaps not the singular achievement that Bitte Orca was, Swing Lo Magellan proves that Dirty Projectors are a band with few peers, if any.