Monday, December 17, 2012

06. Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo, Magellan (Domino)

 If you've only tuned in for parts of Dirty Projectors' decade-long run, it's entirely possible that you've viewed bandleader Dave Longstreth and his ever-evolving band line-up as a gimmick. After all, though Longstreth had been releasing music as Dirty Projectors for years, the band finally inched toward a critical mass in 2007 on an album that reinterpreted Black Flag's Damaged from memory. The album found Longstreth replacing Rollins' gruff bellow with alien, elastic vocals, anchored to the zigs and zags of West African guitar. Two years later, Bitte Orca used a trio of female vocalists-- mainstays Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian and newcomer Haley Dekle-- to bait often abstruse arrangements and hard-to-parse lyrics. When Questlove posted a backstage video of the Projectors performing an unplugged "When the World Comes to an End" after a "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" appearance, internet commentators concurred that people simply shouldn't be able to sing like that. Between the intercalated harmonies, Longstreth's own sometimes-stringent tone, and his counterintuitive approach to guitar, Dirty Projectors occasionally could be reduced into a menagerie of eccentricities-- possible to enjoy, but sometimes difficult to internalize.

Swing Lo Magellan should help rectify that: The band's least ornate batch of songs to date builds upon Longstreth's most direct and identifiable lyrics ever. Which means that Dirty Projectors have upped their emotional and structural accessibility all at once. Culled from a batch of roughly 40 demos, these tunes explore vulnerability and vexation, sweetness and cynicism with more manageable musical complications than ever before. For instance, the gorgeous "Impregnable Question" finds the seam between Heart of Gold-era Neil Young and late-1960s Serge Gainsbourg; it's a love song between Coffman and Longstreth, her coos helping him to soften his voice above a warm acoustic shuffle. Over handclaps and a ragged, wrapping riff on "Dance for You", Longstreth offers one of his most intuitive and immediate hooks. There's gusto and playfulness here, too, from the way Longstreth clears his very-warped throat before launching into the first verse of opener "Offspring Are Blank" to the brilliant decision to record Coffman and Dekle mocking some of Longstreth's most impenetrable lyrics toward the end of the irrepressible "Unto Caesar". When he sings "Down the line/ Dead, the martyrs' morbid poetry," Coffman teasingly answers, "Uhh, that doesn't make any sense, what you just said." You want to be in the room with this band.

via Pitchfork (read the rest there)
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