ALBUM REVIEW: Destroyer – ken

Destroyer_Ken_Cover

Now up to album number twelve as Destroyer, Dan Bejar, one-time member of The New Pornographers, has fully embraced the world of lush and literate sophisticated synth pop. Think New Order’s primitive machine sound, the avant, collage-like work of The The and Morrissey’s lyrical twists and turns of phrase and you’re in the right region.

Musically there are plenty of glorious post-punk melancholic moments with Bejar obtusely detailing doomed romance, broken love, fame and misfortune – all in his characteristically dramatic and pretentious singing style.

The themes may be universal but the sonic setting is specifically England in the mid 80s, making it a highly successful marriage of poetic and acutely-knowing musical nostalgia, not dissimilar to Jack Ladder and Alex Cameron.

Chris Familton

DS Top 50 LPs of 2011

2011 has been another massive year for music, at least it feels that way. Invariably the availability and access to recorded music is easier and greater than ever with streaming and file sharing available at the click of a button. Each year I seem to increase the size of my list, purely as a result of the volume of stuff I get to hear. The more I hear, the more I like which is a good thing but it makes year end lists a real brow furrowing exercise – painful but fun for a music obsessive such as some of us are.

This year threw up some new albums from favourites of recent years like Girls, Wild Beasts and Wooden Shjips  – all groups that seem to be refining and improving their music with each album they release. I’ve also been listening to a lot more electronic music reflected by appearances from The Field, Robag Wruhme, Gui Boratto and Zomby. Check out our list over at Komputer Music for more great electronic releases. I’ll also be publishing a list in the coming days of some of my favourite songs from 2011. To the list…

Pure X – Pleasure [Review]

Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Wild Beasts – Smother

Kurt Vile – Smoke Rings for My Halo

Destroyer – Kaputt [Review]

Wooden Shjips – West [Review]

Gillian Welch – The Harrow & The Harvest [Review]

The Felice Brothers – Celebration, Florida [Review]
Wilco – The Whole Love

Royal Headache – Royal Headache [Review]

Leader Cheetah – Lotus Skies [Review]

J. Mascis – Several Shades Of Why [Review]

Okkervil River – I Am Very Far

Zomby – Dedication

The Field – Looping State of Mind

The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

The Field – Looping State of Mind

Bill Callahan – Apocalypse

Melodie Nelson – Meditations on the Sun [Review]

Zola Jesus – Conatus [Review]

Tom Waits – Bad As Me

The Black Keys – Camino

Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean

Gui Boratto – III

Dick Diver – New Start Again [Review]

Nils Frahm – Felt

Radiohead – The King of Limbs

Real Estate – Days

The Horrors – Skying

Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts

Neil Young – A Treasure

Robag Wruhme – Thora Vukk

Jack Ladder – Hurtsville [Review]

Step-Panther – Step-Panther [Review]

James Blake – James Blake

Twerps – Twerps [Review]

Austra – Feel It Break [Review]

Eleanor Friedberger- Last Summer

The Bats – Free All The Monsters

Those Darlins – Screws Get Loose [Review]

Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire

British Sea Power – Valhalla Dancehall [Review]

Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Black Lips – Arabia Mountain

Tiny Ruins – Some Were Meant For Sea [Review]

Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi [Review]

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

Bon Iver – Bon Iver

The Necks – Mindset

ALBUM REVIEW: Destroyer | Kaputt

written by Chris Familton

Wistful reminisces abound on the new Destroyer album Kaputt. It is Dan Bejar’s ninth album under the Destroyer moniker it feels like a wave over the shoulder or a long lazy sunday spent poring over old VHS cassettes. Bejar went about creating a holistic 80s sound for the record, complete with dreamy washes of chorus guitar, horn solos one degree removed from Kenny G and flashbacks to Prefab Sprout, Blue Nile and Double circa Captain Of Her Heart.

Born in 1972, Bejar is the same age as this reviewer and spent the heart of his teens immersed in 80s synthetic pop music. Therefore the question must be asked – does this music only appeal to those in their mid-late 30s or can a 22 year old appreciate and get hooked in without approaching via pastiche and nostalgia for an era too often personified by cliche?

Ultimately Kaputt transcends the discussion of its smooth, synth pop references via its strength of writing, composition and just the right level of quirk in Bejar’s voice and lyrics. He has this weird habit of trying to fit more words than normal into some lines, while at the same time delivering them in a lackadaisical, almost casual manner. He also likes to repeat phrases, heightening the impact of their intonation and the meaning if any is discernible. An example of this is Blue Eyes’ ‘Can’t you see they had it in for me’ which he repeats with slightly different phrasing with each word changing emphasis each time round.

Blue Eyes is also the first of many to feature horn solos which really are a hallmark and delight of the album. There is little to differentiate them from the much derided cheese that added syrup to a million 80s chart hits. They work because they are so integrated into the overall sound Bejar has concocted for his songs. If they were played over straight indie pop they would certainly sound laughable and gimmicky. Here they are in context – much the same way that Gayngs used them on their Relayted record from last year.

One of the highlights of the album is Savage Nights At The Opera with its New Order via The Cure bass and guitar riffs. It is as if Bejar has found a way to merge jazz-pop and the goth/indie sounds of the same period. The song finds a warm and rolling groove that rides over washes of synth with almost invisible ease. A guitar solo takes the song to another level sounding like an outtake from The Strokes and it again ties together multiple strands of melancholy indie pop from different time zones.

Suicide For Kara Walker sounds like a lifeboat adrift at sea with sounds and effects floating in and out of the first two minutes before Bejar drawls lazily over a Phoenix-like musical backdrop. Tinges of afro-funk infiltrate the back end of the song while flute adds a wonderfully light touch compared to the saxophone and clarinets that had previously taken centre stage. Downtown deals in similar sonics but it is a much tighter and cleaner sounding song. The focus on the bass keeps things from becoming too detached and female backing vocals in the chorus give it a UK blue-eyed soul feel like Scritti Politti or Blow Monkeys.

There really isn’t a weak track on Kaputt. The whole thing is tied together thematically, sonically and with an abundance of dreamy melancholy that makes it such a wonderfully immersive listen. Though it references the past it somehow manages to sound completely contemporary and quite unlike anything else that is around at the moment. With Kaputt Dan Bejar has created a delightfully opulent and indulgent album that haunts you for repeated plays if you let it into your imagination.