tue 15/10/2019

CD: Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan

CD: Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan

Polyrhythmic perversity from Dave Longstreth and his willing minstrels

'Swing Lo Magellan': just songs

Compared to previous Dirty Projectors records, Swing Lo Magellan is a walk in the park with a piece of cake to follow. Then again, previous Dirty Projectors records include a so-called "glitch opera" about Don Henley, a "re-imagining" of a punk album that Dave Longstreth hadn't heard in 15 years, and an EP featuring a 10-piece chamber music collective that Longstreth put together and then named "First Orchestral Society for the Preservation of the Orchestra."

Their last album, 2009's Bitte Orca, found the singer-songwriter-producer and his willing minstrels edging towards the straightforward. Swing Lo Magellan continues along this path. Explaining the difference between the two LPs in a recent interview, Longstreth surmised: "You could say Bitte is about the idea of songs, but these are just songs." At this point, it's helpful to mention that Longstreth has a music degree from Yale University.

Whatever Swing Lo Magellan is, it's tricky to pigeonhole, and it's not quite art-pop ear candy. Longstreth is too fond of polyrhythms; his straining vocals really do need sweetening by the harmonies of Amber Coffman and Haley Dekle; and he's still prone to a brainiac arrangement. "Offsprings Are Blank" sounds like a tug of war between girl vocal R&B and garage rock. "See What She Seeing" invents a new musical genre that could be called "glitch-hop". The combination of bluesy guitars and clashing cymbals on "Maybe That Was It" could be called "a bit of a racket".

Even when he indulges his experimental side, it feels more accessible than esoteric. The melodies and lyrics keep yielding more with each listen, which suggests Longstreth was close to getting it right. These aren't "the idea of songs", or even "just songs"; they're actually "very good songs".

Watch the video for "Gun Has No Trigger"

The melodies and lyrics keep yielding more with each listen


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature


A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway


Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.



This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman


Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.


Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.