Destroyer – Kaputt
Dan Bejar has been performing under the moniker Destroyer for 15 years now, releasing elegantly detailed, shambled and hazy folk gems, mixed with some of the most diverse musical arrangements out there. On previous efforts, gentle acoustic strumming would often give way to a wash of big guitars, synthesizer, keyboards, and rousing choral vocals, thus giving songs like “Priest’s Knees” and “Mad Foxes” a sweeping and gauzy sound that add to the epic reaches of Bejar’s lyrics.
Closely associated with David Bowie, Destroyer’s music echoes the shape-shifting dynamics and oddball sketches that made a legend of The White Duke. While not achieving the ultra-celebrity of Bowie (what rock musician could these days?), Bejar has achieved a huge following on the indie circuit, playing to sold out clubs and collaborating frequently with pop supergroup New Pornographers. On Kaputt, Bejar’s full-length follow-up to 2009’s Bay of Pigs EP, the formula that has worked so well on past releases returns, however, this time with a twist: an ‘80’s jazz-fused, electronic sound more in line with Roxy Music and Spandau Ballet than previous albums have revealed. Flutes and saxophones trickle alongside synth-heavy beats on most tracks, providing an ambient groove for Bejar’s smooth and understated voice as he croons his mysterious tales of finding purpose and meaning in a crowded, confusing, and unrelenting world: “I was just getting used to having you around/You went wanderin’/Around the world/I woke up I went downtown…And everything was drowned”, Bejar groans in “Downtown”, assisted as he is through much of the album by Vancouver singer Sibel Thrasher, who provides a nice lilting tone to the laconically subdued vocals of the lead singer.
Bejar’s voice, which admittedly may be somewhat of an acquired taste, undoubtedly suits his lyrics, giving credence to the down and out characters that populate his compositions. On this album, though, more than previous efforts, the lyrics tend to take a back seat to sound quality and vibe. The arrangements are so striking, and as in the funk-laden “Song For America” so infectious, that the listener may resist attempts at deciphering Bejar’s words. While understandable, this action would provide a disservice to Bejar as he kills it turning phrases on the cleverly titled “Poor In Love” and offers forth a barrage of images, details, and non sequiturs in “Savage Night at the Opera”.
Ever the chameleon, Bejar can induce chuckles as well as moments of profundity in equal parts. If you’re new to the world of Destroyer, Kaputt may be a baffling starting point. It might be best to reach into the back catalog for a few primers. If you’ve kept up with the output though, this album offers a kaleidoscopic journey into the mind and psyche of a modern troubadour. It’s never dull and will stay fresh and rewarding through multiple listens.