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Dirty Projectors, "Swing Low Magellan"
Dirty Projectors, “Swing Low Magellan”

Swing Lo Magellan gets off to a beautiful and unsettling start with “Offspring Are Blank.” It’s almost completely a capella, with oohs and ahhs of slightly dissonant harmonies under David Longstreth’s lead vocals, and it’s all intermittently and abruptly broken up by choruses of blazing guitars.

The whole record goes on in that vein — indie rock infused with doo-wop, old-school soul and touches of art rock. Longstreth’s love of hip-hop beats (he’s a big Lil Wayne fan) comes through in the production, and the album relies a lot on its odd rhythms. The breakdown of “Unto Caesar” should be annoying — with background chatter coming through strong and threatening to ruin a clapping beat and soulful harmonies — but instead it feels like a nice touch of humanity.

The magic of Dirty Projectors is that they can repeat the lyric “you’re about to die” and it feels like a feel-good singalong. It’s a cognitive dissonance that’s there even without the lyrics — the harmonies and rhythms are often uneasy, but the overall effect is pretty and charming.