Destroyer – Poison Season Review

Dan Bejar Is the kind of artist who creates something different every time he enters the studio. Often messy instrumentally but always lyrically clever, Bejar has established himself as one of the (if not the) best indie rock poet since the 1990s.

Destroyer is the solo project of Vancouverite Dan Bejar who you may have heard from his numerous other projects like Swan Lake and The New Pornographers. Bejar’s previous LP “Kaputt” went in a different direction to any of his other LPs; it sports a much more cleaned up style of production with prominent jazz elements which combine in his own style dreamy pop music. Bejar also brought what we have always expected; great poetry (particularly on songs like “Downtown” and “Blue Eyes”). The album may have sounded a little bit too ‘80s for some. Whilst the LP wasn’t exactly drenched in reverb and jangly guitars it can be off putting for those looking for a more slick modern sound. Which is just was Bejar delivers as he gets back into his poetic roots. That’s not to say he has neglected the instrumental side of his music; in fact, he has created some incredibly delicate music on his latest record.

Yet again Bejar changes his sound for his latest LP. On “Poison Season” he punts for a more cinematic and grand orchestral sound to go with his gentle poetry; a combination which on paper sounds great. The album opener “Times Square” (the first of three different versions) is a great sampler for what’s to come. Its slow sweeping strings are fantastic and even more so when it reaches a small crescendo for its ending. We then get a shot in the arm in the form of “Dream Lover” which although another good song exposes his weakness as a vocalist; he just seems to fade into the background a little amidst all the stomping drums and the all-round messy rockabilly style of the song is infectious. Not to mention that saxophone solo. Got to love the sax.

“Hell” is a great track, probably the best on the album. His typical delicate poetic lyrics are matched with equally delicate strings until it ends with Bejar bluntly repeating “it’s hell down here, it’s hell” as he reminds us of Kaputt’s more jazzy elements. “The River” is a little more straightforward; focusing almost exclusively on the jazz but it is no less impressive and surprisingly fulfilling in the sense that the string elements aren’t missed. “Girl in a sling” then demonstrates his orchestral proficiency. Yet again it doesn’t leave you bemoaning the lack of other elements but engaged in a relatively simple story of Bejar comforting the eponymous character.

“Archer on the beach” keeps the slow and smooth grove going. This track sounds like it’s a part of an extravagant musical, the distant and increasingly distorted guitar clashes with the smooth jazz elements in a great ending. Some of the lyrics here too paint beautiful pictures albeit strange ones (“Careful now, watch your step, in you go/ The Ass King’s made of asses, the Ice Queen’s native snow/And Archer’s where you left him, with his arrows slightly out of reach/ Impossible raver on your death bed, Archer on the beach”).

Poison Season again picks up with “Midnight Meets the Rain” which treads the line that Bejar so often does between chaotic and controlled. Bejar again shows us how he can seemingly lose control when an almost ridiculous guitar solo is put up against the screaming of a saxophone. On “Bangkok” Destoryer delivers yet another beautiful delicate song in which he stretches his words as though to emphasise the obvious beauty of the track. On a side note, I love the piano on this track; just how it mirrors him in the chorus but especially for the interlude between the chorus and verse. It’s not exactly reinventing the wheel but that doesn’t mean it’s not easy on the ears. Rather disappointingly the next track, “Solace’s Bride” just feels a little flat and conventional when put against the rest of the album.

Poison Season feels a bit like Bejar is trying to create a kind of grand musical. There doesn’t seem to be one theme on this album but rather short (and sometimes bizarre) imaginative stories. The few negatives with the album are more to do with my issue with Bejar’s voice then the instrumentals or lyrics. It just doesn’t work in some of the more upbeat tracks, he struggles to be heard on “Dream Lover” and his tone can be overly smooth for new listeners. That said, Poison Season is vividly beautiful as Bejar delivers something quite different to 2011’s Kaputt but by no means any less impressive.

Destroyer – Poison Season = 8.5/10

Callum Christie   @christiecallum

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