After the supposed avant-garde accessibility and commercial breakthrough of 2009's Bitte Orca -- an album that saw Solange Knowles cover the R&B-tinged and hook-laden single "Stillness in the Move" -- Swing Lo Magellan is the David Longstreth-led Dirty Projectors' sixth studio album. Proclaiming that this is "an album of songs, an album of songwriting," and despite the absence of long-term collaborator Angel Deradoorian, Longstreth manages to produce his most tender yet anthemic record to date. Spending nearly 12 months recording and writing in an isolated house in the rural solitude of Delaware County, New York, Longstreth forged intimacy and spontaneity, and each track bursts with ideas and warmth, but that's not to suggest that the fidgetiness and crashing rhythms of their previous material are not there. Album opener "Offspring Are Blank" starts with the band's calling card of harmonies and sparse clicks and percussion before exploding into life. Lead single "Gun Has No Trigger" has Longstreth's vocals straining toward emphatic ecstasy with female vocal harmonies cooing in the background, creating an unsettling yet rather content experience. The carefree "Dance for You" genuinely exudes feelings of joy and comfort with its light vocal melody, brief organ interlude, and the simplicity of its trebly guitar refrain and drum patterns. Amber Coffman takes a solo turn on "The Socialites," a sweet and yearning R&B song with Coffman's persona gently coming to the fore. The 12 tracks are sewn together in a way that feels like a paean to the tradition of songwriting and the sheer heartfelt joy of it -- summed up on the album closer, "Irresponsible Tune," which shimmers like a vintage golden 1950s rock & roll ballad. While some listeners might find the Projectors' rather knowing idiosyncracy off-putting and smug, there are songs here that suggest the band has finally found the formula that finely balances its well-meaning musical intellectualism with actual pop songs.
AllMusic Review by Aneet Nijjar