Beyond the aughts-era duality of retromania and neophilia, 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 finest album to date.
“It’s an album of songs, an album of songwriting,” says Longstreth.
Another reinvention in a career defined by reinvention, Swing Lo Magellan does what no Dirty Projectors album has done before: it’s about songs. Few songwriters can pull off the challenge to write as simple and direct as possible, and fewer still can do it and be left with something that feels irreducibly personal and idiosyncratic. Swing Lo Magellan gives us twelve such songs, one after another.
The album contains some of the biggest choruses of the band’s career (the explosive and anthemic Offspring Are Blank and Unto Caesar), as well as some of simplest and most disarming (the closer Irresponsible Tune). Gun Has No Trigger is a fever dream of ecstatic paranoia, while Dance For You is a song of searching, spiritual depth (“in the language of Gyptian and Ligeti,” Longstreth suggests). The tender love declared in Impregnable Question would have resonated in any musical era of the last hundred years. The title track Swing Lo Magellan is a gorgeous lament to the night sky. Amber Coffman’s solo turn on The Socialites adds a compelling new layer to her persona. Each of these songs is a world unto itself – one that can be explored endlessly. Indeed, Swing Lo Magellan feels so unique in the context of much of today’s music because it is more about its content than about its frame and reference. It’s more heart than sleeve.
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