Dirty Projectors, once the collegiate art project of bandleader Dave Longstreth, is now undeniably one of the biggest bands in Brooklyn. Their heady but ecstatic contortions have been rewarded with famous fans and sold-out crowds, getting bigger all the time. Three years after their breakthrough album Bitte Orca became the unlikely reintroduction of slick 90s R&B into the indie-rock aesthetic, they return with their latest work, Swing Lo Magellan. It’s a surprisingly warm record, with an ambition as basic as stringing together a well-crafted set of songs, designed for emotional response. That’s something most experimental bands with careers in ascendance have often given lip service to, the photo negative of a conventional rock band “going electronic.” But weighing streamlined pop tracks like “Gun Has No Trigger” or “Dance for You” against the provocative, but flailing Black Flag reconstructions on Rise Above or even the knotty, non-“Stillness is the Move” stretches of Bitte Orca, backs up Longstreth’s stated intent. While his band’s sound remains texturally rich, and refuses to ever become flatly conventional, they’ve now channeled their strengths towards work less calculated to impress. Somehow, the result is even more impressive.
In conversation, Longstreth touches on the making of the record, the methods he used, and the creative choices he made. But mostly he talked about the songs themselves, and the “album of songs” they make up—self-contained pieces that were the focal point of everything Dirty Projectors have been working towards for at least a solid year, and possibly their whole career.