A band who have constantly pushed their boat off from one album and headed in very different directions, New York’s Dirty Projectors have chosen their sixth full length release to create possibly their most readily accessible record to date. Mind you, their definition of accessible keeps their nuance and innovation firmly intact. After all this is the band that has moved from Rise Above’s re-iteration of Black Flag songs to working with David Byrne on the Dark Was The Night compilation for the Red Hot Organization; from the experimental indie brilliance of Bitte Orca to working with Bjork on EP Mount Wittenburg Orca – you see the pattern (or lack thereof) here.
With no thematic idea in place, Swing Low Magellan finds them a much more relaxed band. Retaining the experimentalism that littered every outing this far, the twelve tracks here have a more linear and mellow approach than their recent recordings. There are still the moments of itchy fingered distortion reminding us of their flip side: the jarring electric guitar slap-in-the-face chorus of opener ‘Offspring Are Blank’ being the best example. It’s an unnerving and inventive trick, leaving you curious with every new tracks intro as to where the song will end up by the breakdown.
Although a more standard affair when placed alongside previous work it still lives and breathes musicianship. Electronic ticks sit beside orchestral swells of sound on ‘See What She’s Seeing” like it’s absolutely natural, maybe as it’s all tied together by David Longstreth’s solid but weathered vocals which neatly contrast Amber Coffman and Haley Dekle’s sun-burned backing vocals. While the female contingent provide vocal harmony to Longstreth’s lead for much of the album, Coffman comes to the fore on ‘The Socialites’ bittersweet tale of rejection, complete with killer punch line: “I’m glad, they’re the ones on the other side of the glass/ who knows what my soul is worth in cold, hard cash”. For all of their musical wizardry it’s testament to the album’s strength that none of it over shadows their lyrical skills.
While it could potentially irk the Dirty Projectors die-hard fans with its seeming linearity after their work with Bjork and concept-driven albums, in truth it serves to show what the band are like without guidance or a map. The lack of a distinct thread running throughout is refreshing, letting them showcase a wholly different and more personal vibe. At times it could be called meandering, but when music sounds this good, you won’t be in a rush to go anywhere.