With Swing Lo Magellan, David Longstreth shows he really doesn't know how to do the same thing twice. This time, beyond the aughts-era duality of retromania and neophilia, and beyond his band’s reputation for dizzying, heady innovation, Longstreth has found the beautiful, generous simplicity of the heart and soul. Same as it ever was. And this must be exactly the place where he's planted the seeds for his band's finest album to date.
Where prior DPz albums investigated 20th-century orchestration (The Getty Address), aerated the aesthetics of 80s hardcore and west African guitar music (Rise Above), and explored complex contrapuntal techniques in human voices (Bitte Orca and Mt Wittenberg Orca), Swing Lo Magellan is a leap forward again.
“It’s an album of songs, an album of songwriting,” says Longstreth.
The songs of Swing Lo Magellan are culled from a sprawling twelve months of constant writing and recording in a weird house in Delaware County, New York (four hours northwest of the city). Longstreth, who produced and mixed, wrote seventy new songs and beats. The band - Amber Coffman (vocals & guitar), Nat Baldwin (bass), Brian McOmber (drums) & Haley Dekle (vocals) - joined him periodically, rehearsing the new music more or less constantly in the house's A-frame attic (vocalist Angel Deradoorian is on hiatus).
The twelve songs of Swing Lo Magellan were winnowed down from about forty finished demos. The finished recordings bear the impress of this informal working style: the album is a collection of moments: accidental, fortuitous, spontaneous. The performances feel warm and imperfect. Unguarded intimacy is somewhat of a new look for this band, and it turns out it's a very good look.
Swing Lo Magellan is an album that comes from the hearts of one of the most fearlessly thoughtful bands of the last ten years. The album has both the handmade intimacy of a love letter and the widescreen grandeur of a blockbuster, and if that sounds like a paradox - it's because it was until now.
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