Listen: Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan, Track By Track Band Commentary
Dirty Projectors' latest studio album Swing Lo Magellan is out this week and who better to talk about the album's beautiful clarity and musical invention than a member of the band themselves? We've got band linchpin and esoteric frontman, Dave Longstreth, to talk us through the band's latest opus, track by track.
1. Offspring Are Blank 'Offspring Are Blank'” is one of those generation songs like 'The Kids Are Alright', except for that kids are not really alright. The questions about the idea of occupation suffuses the album – it’s hard to really say what it means but it’s in there. 'Offspring Are Blank' is also about the idea of hybridity. There’s a lyric in the second verse about the marriage of eagle and snake, that goes “the parents stay fertile, but the offspring is blank.” The song itself is a little bit of a blank offspring. The verse has this huge low 808 sound and a sort of a serpent-y melody, so it’s like a low-line snake. And the chorus is the explosive, soaring eagle. But there’s no bridge in the song, as if there’s no productive offspring.
2. About To Die Who is singing to who in this song? Well, it’s one of those songs that’s in the second person, and whether or not the narrator is addressing himself is unclear – it’s not a finger-pointing song. 'About to Die', that’s all of us. We’re all about to die. We won’t die because of some sort of sin, but we are going to die because we are going to die.
3. Gun Has No Trigger ‘Gun Has No Trigger’ is an abstract and metaphorical song. When I wrote the lyrics I wasn’t sure what they were about. And the recorded performance on this song was the first time I was singing the song, saying the lyrics. Some of the words are not even real words or mispronounced because I didn’t entirely know them. The song is about the nature of protesting, and what a protest could be in a world in which protesting just becomes a spectacle of protest. Which affirms the notion that we’re facing a larger morass where we are protesting against this circular system, and it’s impossible to imagine an alternative. The song is about a frustration – where it’s even impossible to commit suicide. You hold a gun but it doesn’t have a trigger. You can’t actually kill yourself with the gun, you can only flash it around.
4. Swing Lo Magellan I think this song could be about trying to figure out the functions of one’s intuitions in a world that’s fully mapped. What are the use of intuitions on a globe that’s totally circumscribed. Also I’m actually obsessed with the internet, so the album is in a lot of ways about the internet, about how it changes the way we think and write.
5. Just From Chevron The song is about an accident on an offshore drilling rig – there’s some accident like an explosion or something, and this man is dying. This song is simply reporting what’s going on. There’s a couple of people at the scene, and the man is issuing his last words before he dies. The song is just a transcription of that exchange.
6. Dance For You It’s a little embarrassing to say this, but yes, maybe you can find the answer not in words but in movement. Musically, with the instrumental bridge and the guitar solo that happens afterwards, you could say that it’s almost as if the song suggests finding an answer in moving, in dancing. This won’t be a quote for me, and it’s just an idea, but you could say that the question posed in the lyrics is answered in the feeling of the instrumental music, that of the bridge and the solo.
7. Maybe That Was It This song is about rust, decay and decline, in this grand sense of empire, or something of like an institution. But at the same time, the song is the best address of the subject matter. It’s not an essay, it’s a song. If we talk about this anymore, it’s gone.
8. Impregnable Question You can say whatever you want to about this song. It’s a very personal song, and it’s up to everybody to get in there with it on a personal level. Whatever you’d say about it would probably be true anyway. All I can say is, this is the most personal song on the record. And it’s really….true to life!
9. See What She Seeing Well, the name of the band is Dirty Projectors, and in a way the image there is of a psychological projection. That is, not really seeing what’s in front of you, but maybe seeing some creative modulation of it. I think that the image of this song is this idea of an emblem of real love. You’re seeing what she’s seeing, you two are seeing the same thing.
10. The Socialites This is one of those stories, about something you might have experienced in a high school, such as being in love with a girl in a cool crowd, or maybe having a platonic crash on your friend. It’s one of those songs. My high school experience wasn’t like that, neither was Amber’s. But you could relate to it. You don’t know if it’s from your own experiences, but it feels familiar enough that it might be, or maybe that’s because it’s cliché.
11. Unto Caesar This song is kind of a meditation on when to care. To figure out when to care and not to care, and what line to draw. As in, I need to do something about this, I don’t need to do something about that. How do I come up with ideas like this? Well, it’s nothing dramatic. You know, life is confusing, and you have lots of questions. I find the only way to write songs about them is just to sit down and bang your head against a page until you start to get into it. It just happens.
12. Irresponsible Tune This song is a kind of benediction of the record, like a closing hymn of the service. Like so many of the songs on this album, it’s a question. It’s asking, is this irresponsible use of time in life and jet fuel? Is there anything remotely responsible about it? A world that is more and more preoccupied with creating images, aestheticizing our existences. I’m just confused about that. When the world is so screwed up, whether there is anything redeeming about what we’re doing right here….it’s a question. Is this song an answer to the question posed in the opening track of the record? Well, I’m not going to say that’s wrong.
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