The sixth album by the indie rockers expands on their incredibly successful Bitte Orca and showcases their quirky natures to an even greater degree at times. A collection of songs rather than the tracks focusing on a united theme, the music ranges from experimental, to grand art pop/rock, but largely can be classified as indie rock. Lead singer David Longstreth has always received his fair share of critics from the general public due to his bizarre voice, and honestly, you will hear better vocals on most other records. In saying that, his vocals are a large part of the bands success, and you really couldn’t imagine “Gun Has No Trigger” being sung by anyone else.
“About to Die” is one of the albums better vocals, with Longstreth sounding perfectly suited for the odd percussion backdrop. This is followed by what could easily accompany any James Bond film, the impressive “Gun Has No Trigger”. The subtle, no-guitar background allows the track to have an empowering, eerie feel, and serves as a highlight off the record. The vocal harmonies following on “Just from Chevron” are amongst the best moments on the album, and as Longstreth exclaims, “I swear I will be alive” over the top of light harmonies, everything feels just right.
The album’s best track is the sensibly gentle “Dance For You”, whose lyrics of an endless search (likely one with no answer) seem all too familiar. “I wanna feel the breath of a force I cannot explain”, is a commonly expressed desire, and fits the album well. “Impregnable Question” is a standout, sounding perfectly suited for any wedding, could find its reach extending general listening. With lyrics like, “To be the only love, and though we don’t see eye-to-eye, I need you, and you’re always on my mind” before closing with the sincere, “You’re my love, and I want you in my life.” The other standout off the album is the upbeat and eccentric, “The Socialites”, sung by other lead vocalist Amber Coffman (who had a very good 2012 herself).
In terms of grand indie/art rock, this alongside Grizzly Bear’s Shields allowed for 2012 to be a very respectable year for the genre. Well-crafted songs, the refined yet hectic instrumentations, the vocal harmonies, they all summed up to one of the year’s most ambitious albums. Although definitely not for everyone, Swing Lo Magellan will have immensely satisfied their devoted following. Hopefully we will hear yet more Coffman on tracks in subsequent releases, but until then, this is an impressive continuation for the band.
Verdict – 8.7
Top Tracks – “Dance For You”, “Impregnable Question”, “The Socialites”