|Rating: 3.5 / 5
Reviewer: Sean Marchetto
On the album’s otherwise slow-burning opener ‘Offspring are Blank’, there is a roaring guitar lick halfway through that signals Swing Lo Magellan is going its own way from Bitte Orca. Generally speaking, that way involves climbing back down from the lofty experimental heights that Dave Longstreth and Co. explored on previous albums. The jarring octave-jumping compositional tangents are greatly reduced, although tracks like ‘Gun Has No Trigger’ and ‘Offspring are Blank’ maintain the highly evocative, cryptic, and often surreal imagery the band is capable of; in fact, ‘Gun Has No Trigger’ is apparently abstractly a social commentary, but only Longstreth knows for sure. It’s a trait that some of the other band members poke fun of on ‘Unto Caeser’ where the open studio mics pick them up singing and laughing, then admitting to each other, “That doesn’t make any sense; what you just said”.
Swing Lo Magellan is at its best on tracks like ‘About to Die’ or ‘Dance For You’; deceptively simple songs that severely limit sonic diversions while maximizing vocal harmonies, resulting in pop-folk gems that rival anything recently put out by The Shins or Fleet Foxes. The Velvet Underground and Nico influences continue to make their presence known with ‘Just From Chevron’.
‘Maybe That Was It’ is bit of melodramatic dirge that strikes mid-album and throws things for a bit of a wrench, but luckily ‘Impregnable Question’ arrives promptly to right things. The song represents the album’s sombre romantic moment and highlights the only real drawback to Swing Lo Magellan. While Longstreth is highly successful in building his own musical little world and Dirty Projector songs might, to Longstreth at least, refer to outside events, it’s very difficult for listeners to build that meaning for themselves on their own. Each song is delivered in its own delightfully pristine hermetically sealed package. ‘Impregnable Question’ perhaps comes closest to straightforward approachability, as Longstreth croons “You’re my love / and I want you in my life” but in general few listeners would walk down the street and be inclined to break out into a Dirty Projectors song.