Who knew that a member of the ultra-poppy, sweet and sassy,
Canadian supergroup The New Pornographers could make an album
that’s as musically sophisticated as it is intensely
emotional? Dan Bejar, songsmith extraordinaire and mastermind
behind Destroyer and one of the primary New Pornos songwriters,
holds listeners rapt with his latest release Your Blues.

Bejar delivers his sometimes dreamy, sometimes matter-of-fact
lyrics with the precision and flexibility of a true storyteller.
Something about the particular combination of his words and his
voice makes his ideas all the more believable. With lines like
“Tomorrow’s another day / But it’s also another
mess” and “Warm yourself by the fiery stage / Fiery
cause I lit it,” Bejar is both highly personal and universal,
appealing to listeners as individuals and as members of a
group.

Synthesizers abound on Your Blues, both as beams of
unreal keyboard sound and as close imitations of brass instruments.
Bejar’s skillful orchestration shows as he blends and accents
vocal lines with instrumentals. The flute solo in “It’s
Gonna Take an Airplane” lilts sadly against a background of
acoustic strumming while Bejar almost whispers, “It’s
gonna take an airplane to get me off the ground / I don’t
blame anyone who isn’t sticking around.” It’s as
though he’s found the perfect figure to accompany his poetry.
Bejar expresses the same emotional idea simultaneously with words
and music. When he creates moments like this one, the combination
is utterly arresting.

“An Actor’s Revenge” provides momentum to the
album with driving percussion and soaring background vocals, as
well as one great lyrical hook: “Boys demanding satisfaction
from girls — oh, you’d hate to be a girl!”
Your Blues winds down with the song-like “What
Roads” and “Certain Things You Ought to Know.”
But one of the album’s most dramatic tracks is its
opener.

Bejar begins the one-man emotional extravaganza that is Your
Blues
with “Notorious Lightning,” an alternately
sensitive and bombastic explosion of different moods and musical
timbres. He delivers lyrics with intensity and hope: “Oh,
notorious lightning! Yes, I had to ride you and trash the crystal
jets they kept in storage inside you!” Low strings and
synthesizer swirl and jerk underneath poetry that’s part
confession and part accusation and accented perfectly with timpani
hits. The song culminates with Bejar, in his best David Bowie
impression, repeatedly calling out “And someone’s got
to fall before someone goes free!” Destroyer has taken us on
one hell of a journey — and that’s only the first
track.

Music Review: 4 out of 5 stars

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