Review - Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo, Magellan
The Dirty Projectors’ new album ‘Swing Lo, Magellan’ is labeled as “indie rock”, but after listening to it (yes, I listen to music other than pop THANK YOU) I have decided that I am going to review it. You see, I think that calling the album indie rock might help it sell a bit better and a lot of hipster blogs will like it, but the music speaks for itself. Indie pop almost all the way through.
Sometimes I like to sit back, close my eyes, and just listen. I don’t worry about who I am listening to, what they look like or what I know them for. I do everything I can to let all of that go and have the music tell me what I am going to write. I don’t always have the time for this, but when I do, I find that I can hear a lot more than just what is playing.
Take ‘Swing Lo, Magellan’ for example. Sure, it could be just another indie album from another buzzing band that may or may not be around three years from now, but I don’t hear that. If it weren’t for perhaps three of the twelve tracks on the album, I swear I was listening to some sort of compilation of bands from decades past. The disc plays as if someone were trying to teach you about how music in America progressed over the years, only it all got jumbled up. At times it you hear the snare drum going – not too hard, but just enough to be exciting and new – and you can picture three pretty girls wearing matching dresses, their bufont hair all the way up to the ceiling, all singing their latest record off Columbia on a television studio. Then you switch to the rock of the late 60’s and early 70’s on “Dance For You”. Suddenly things are psychedelic; strange, but you’re intrigued. Before you know it you’re listening to the Beatles’ “Get Back”, and that’s the collection.
For me, a lot of ‘Swing Lo, Magellan’ sounded like the members of Dirty Projectors have been learning a musical history, and it has influenced them heavily (and well). Nothing sounds too specific to be copied. Instead, they take bits and piece of songs, bands, musical movements, and they mix them and come out with something new. I love the idea of this, and I have never heard it done this way.
My one criticism is that it sounds almost as if the record was done and after giving it a listen-through, they went back and made some changes, adding an off-kilter drumbeat here (“About To Die”) or even a Robyn-inspired (Robyn circa her 2005 self-titled album) swaggerific pop beat there (“The Socialites”). These moments don’t feel like they fit, and they disrupt the flow and feeling that the album was giving me, especially “The Socialites”. This doesn’t mean the songs themselves are bad, but rather that they should have been placed elsewhere (and off this album).
Altogether, ‘Swing Lo, Magellan’ is an impressive output. The album finds a way to reference some of the better musical innovations of our recent past, but do so in a way that is specific to the Dirty Projectors. Imagine you took ten of your favorite songs from within a ten year period. Take those songs, remix them a bit, chop them up, rearrange the pieces, and rewrite what music you’ve come up with. Do you get to call that something new and original? The Dirty Projectors did, and I agree with them completely.
Listen to: “Gun Has No Trigger” (which, the minute it begins, you think is Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good”), “Just From Chevron”, “Dance For You”, and “The Socialites” (to hear what I mean about the Robyn thing – I assume after the review I just wrote, a lot of you will be scratching your head on that one).