Of his 12th studio album and its enigmatic title, Destroyer's Dan Bejar offers the following:
Sometime last year, I discovered that the original name for "The Wild Ones" (one of the great English-language ballads of the last 100 years or so) was "Ken." I had an epiphany, I was physically struck by this information. In an attempt to hold on to this feeling, I decided to lift the original title of that song and use it for my own purposes. It's unclear to me what that purpose is, or what the connection is. I was not thinking about Suede when making this record. I was thinking about the last few years of the Thatcher era. Those were the years when music first really came at me like a sickness, I had it bad. Maybe "The Wild Ones" speaks to that feeling, probably why Suede made no sense in America. I think "ken" also means "to know."
ken was produced by Josh Wells of Black Mountain, who has been the drummer in Destroyer since 2012. The album was recorded in its entirety in the jam space/studio space that the group calls The Balloon Factory. However, unlike Poison Season, ken was not recorded as a "band" record, though everyone in the band does make an appearance.
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We recorded a song called "My Mystery" a year and a half ago. Kind of a light number, vaguely danceable. Wistful, looking back not unfondly on time spent and dull misadventures had within the dead-as-a-doornail music industry. And the feeling of where it leaves you, like a rat in the middle of the ocean, though not as harsh as that; as if rats could swim an ocean's length. Anyway, the song was not in keeping with the shadow spirit of Poison Season, and so it got shelved.
Then one day DJjohnedwardcollins@gmail.com called me up and said, "You got any shit for me?"...
Destroyer's Poison Season opens swathed in Hunky Dory strings. Dan Bejar's a dashboard Bowie surveying four wracked characters - Jesus, Jacob, Judy, Jack - simultaneously Biblical and musical theatre. This bittersweet, Times Square-set fanfare is reprised twice more on the record - first as swaying, saxophone-stoked "street-rock" and then finally as a curtain-closing reverie.
Broadway Danny Bejar dramatically switches scenes with "Dream Lover," all Style Council strut and brassy, radio-ready bombast (echoes of The Boo Radleys' evergreen earworm "Wake Up Boo!"). This being Destroyer, its paramours-on-the-run exuberance is judiciously spiked by his deadpan delivery: "Oh shit, here comes the sunâ€¦"
Like the other DB, Mr. Bejar has long displayed a chameleonic instinct for change while maintaining a unified aesthetic (rather than just pinballing between reference points). No two records sound the same, but they're always uniquely Destroyer. His latest incarnation often appears to take sonic cues from a distinctly British (usually Scottish, to be precise) strain of sophisti-pop: you might hear traces of Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout, Orange Juice, or The Blow Monkeys. These songs merge a casual literary brilliance with intense melodic verve, nimble arrangements, and a certain blue-eyed soul sadness.
Playfully rueful, "Sun in the Sky" foregrounds cryptic lyrical dexterity over pop-classicist strum before gradually left-fielding into rhythmically supple, delirious avant-squall. It's as if Talk Talk took over a Lloyd Cole show. Originally released on a collaborative EP with electronic maestros Tim Hecker and Loscil (the latter's drones are retained here), a retooled "Archer on the Beach" suggests Sade swimming in The Blue Nile, smooth-jazz marimba melancholy dilated by ecstatic ambience. Flecked in heady dissonance, elusively alluring, Dan hymns its eponymous "impossible raver on your death bed" while implicitly beckoning the listener: "Careful now, watch your step, in you go."
That's Poison Season in essence: familiar yet mysterious, opaquely accessible. Arch, for sure, but ultimately elevatory.
Kaputt is his latest vision: an opulent, lyrical, game-changing masterpiece to rank with the choicest works of Sade, Scritti Politti, Simply Red and Steely Dan. For a more contemporary touchstone, feel free to consider it the sad-eyed psychic cousin of GAYNGS' smooth opus Relayted. These elaborate songs were lovingly crafted by a large studio ensemble of dedicated players; they are given fresh life on the road by an eight-piece touring band which will visit European shores for the first time this year.
Kaputt was released by the good people of Merge in North America, entering the Billboard chart at number 62 and receiving exultant hosannas from such august publications as The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Spin and The Washington Post.
Produced by JC/DC and recorded at their studio in Vancouver earlier this summer, Five Spanish Songs features musical contributions from Nicolas Bragg, David Carswell, John Collins, Stephen Hamm, and Josh Wells.
Dan Bejar writes:It was 2013. The English language seemed spent, despicable, not easily singable. It felt over for English; good for business transactions, but that's about it. The only other language I know is Spanish, and the only Spanish songs I really know are those of Sr. Chinarro, led by Antonio Luque. I've been a decades-long fan of how he conducted his affairs, his strange words, his melodies that have always felt so natural (this is important), his bitter songs about painting the light. Something about them, I knew I could do it...