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REVIEW: Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan

REVIEW: Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan

By: Taylor Browne
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July 17, 2012
“Swing Lo Magellan” is the best Beatles cover album I’ve heard in a long time. The Dirty Projectors have managed to pin down the atmosphere of some of the best Beatles albums and- Wait, what? The Dirty Projectors aren’t a Beatles cover band? …Oh.

“Swing Lo Magellan” is the new album from The Dirty Projectors. It begins with the track Offspring Are Blank, which at first sounds like a parody of a Kanye West song, but once the haunting and sneering vocal harmonies enter, the song takes a wonderful new form. The song saunters forward with a swagger which is quite tasty.

Then the chorus hits (at least, I think it’s supposed to be a chorus). The lead vocals change from a sinister, tongue-in-cheek tone to a gritty and emotional one. Simultaneously the backup harmonies, which were the driving force of the song and the hook, are dropped completely and the song is found wanting. The execution of this chorus is done haphazardly at best. The vocals and guitar try to sound gritty but they’re too well polished (which is what happens when you record in an expensive recording studio) to communicate any real kind of true emotion. The song moves from being clever to trying too hard.

Then the second track, About to Die, kicks in. It’s bouncy and off rhythm Gorillaz feel is charming. The Dirty Projectors’ sporadic and limited attention span really pays off here. It sounds like three different songs are vying for control leaving the listener pleasantly in the middle of this tug-o-war. Following About to Die comes Gun Has No Trigger (very Gorillaz esque indeed) and we are returned to the playful but dark vocal harmonies Offpsring Are Blank gave us. The bass playing is wonderful and the song simply put is well put together.

But then we enter the part of the album where The Dirty Projectors become a Beatles cover band. Swing Lo Magellan sounds like Abbey Road B-Side and Just from Chevron is kinda boring. Dance for You, Unto Caesar, and Impregnable Question are good tracks, but every inspired moment they have is very clearly inspired by The Beatles. And by the time we arrive at See What She Seeing, the album sounds like it is repeating itself.

The first three tracks and the last three tracks are the strongest. While Unto Caesar is clearly aspires to be a Lennon song, The Dirty Projectors add their own spin and the track comes into its own. The Socialites is the most stripped down and commercial sounding part of the album but at least it sounds original. Irresponsible Tune is silly sure but the band seems to relish in the song’s aesthetic which will sell the listener.

There are several gorgeous and palpable moments in this album which The Dirty Projectors nail perfectly. But at times the album meanders without much reward. The beginning of Swing Lo Magellan is catchy and powerful but after the first three songs The Dirty Projectors rely too heavily on their love for The Beatles. The Dirty Projectors seem to be trying too hard. However, you may find that the moments in which the band is relaxed and most like themselves are well worth the twenty minute long cover of Octopus’s Garden.

Also try:

VIDEO: Dirty Projectors on Fallon - “Gun Has No Trigger”

Dirty Projectors Tour Begins for Swing Lo Magellan

REVIEW: Dirty Projectors - “Dance for You”

Listen to Dirty Projectors + Bjork - On and Ever Onward

Dirty Projectors Unveil Swing Lo Magellan Artwork and Details

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