Most independent artists are known for their free-floating pretension, but few deliver it as elegantly and effortlessly as Destroyer frontman Daniel Bejar. The Vancouver-native- has risen to indie-star prominence over the past few years, thanks in large part to his astonishing grasp of literary prose and an ability to craft delicate lyrics to frame his epic songs. His song-writing genius is so pronounced that it has even spawned its own drinking game, encouraging participants to take a pull anytime he mentions religion, the sea, the way a women moves or any other of his consistent lyrical themes. But thankfully,
Bejar’s main musical endeavor offers far more than regurgitated metaphors oozing with pretentious irony.
A part-time member of The New Pornographers, Bejar has recently lent his talent to fellow Canadian virtuoso Spencer Krug’s super-group Swan Lake, proving that he is an indispensable force in the independent music community. After a decade spent on the Canadian indie-rock circuit and producing a cornucopia of pop records, Bejar achieved much-deserved critical acclaim in 2006 with Destroyer’s sixth LP Destroyer’s Rubies. Moving past the four-track recordings and MIDI-experimentation, which defined his past efforts, the slick album is a delightful venture through an indie-pop wonderland, guided by Bejar’s distinct Bowie-esque vocals. Destroyer’s latest effort, Trouble In Dreams, expands upon his previous work, while tightening his songs into carefully orchestrated pieces of pop bliss.
The album opens with a simple guitar-strummed ode to infidelity (“Blue Flower/Blue Flame”) before progressing into the fuller pop-rock arrangements that permeate the complex collection. While undeniably quirky throughout, Trouble In Dreams cannot be pigeonholed into one category. Each cut is distinctive and captures a different side of the band’s multifaceted character. On the amped-up, pop-rock “Dark Leaves Form a Thread,” the band creates a gorgeous soundscape caught between tight guitar riffs and distinct piano melodies. Bejar’s unique vocals carry “The State,” taking the song from its playful beginnings to an all-encompassing scream toward the end in which he boldly exclaims, “Loose lips sink the lives of disgusting women.” “Introducing Angels” is playful pop perfection, carried by Bejar’s repeated declaration that “common scars brought us together.” This proves all too true figuratively, although no literal “scars” can be found throughout the entire track, which is wrought with allusions to Chinese poets and unorthodox wedding parties.
On “My Favorite Year,” one of the album’s most luscious and complex tracks, Bejar and company create tension between reverb guitar strings, tight percussion and a chorus of airy vocals to back Bejar’s more distinctive singing. Clocking in as the second-longest track on the album, the song uses every moment and can hardly be considered filler. The band fails in this regard though, with “Shooting Rockets (from the Desk of Night’s Ape),” an eight-minute attempt at epic grandeur. The song, which also appears on Swan Lake’s debut Beast Moans, is unable to move beyond its repetitive notes, ultimately dragging the listener along for a ride that lasts far too long. However, this track proves to be the noticeable exception for Trouble In Dreams, and is all the more negligible when it is taken into consideration that the track was originally recorded for an entirely different album.
Destroyer’s seventh full-length LP contains all the quirks of the band’s previous works, including Bejar’s famous “la da la la da la la las” which help to carry some of his song’s choruses. The album is more produced than some of Destroyer’s previous lo-fi efforts, creating a slicker feel that allows each instrument to shine. While the album lacks the tremendously epic tracks that carried the band’s previous releases, Trouble In Dreams proves Destroyer’s ability to mature without compromising its quintessential spirit.
Trouble in Dreams