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When Dan Bejar announced he was releasing a new album under his project Destroyer, needlessly to say we were extremely excited. For two decades (yes, it’s been twenty years!), Bejar has treated music fans to some of the truly great, albeit unheralded, albums, from the mind-bender that was Streethawk: A Seduction to his masterpiece Kaputt. But with each album, especially in this latter half of Bejar’s career, he has opted for reinvention instead of relying upon the ’70s-inspired indie-rock he channeled for his earlier works. His foray into new sounds, arrangements, and approaches has allowed Bejar’s works to sound fresh, new, and exciting (it also helps that his involvement with The New Pornographers allows him to share his more whimsical and pop-oriented side).
Today, Bejar’s eleventh LP (15th album overall by our account, not including with The New Pornographers) is being released today via Merge Records and Dead Oceans. We share our First Impressions of Destroyer’s Poison Season and decide whether the varied and meandering approach receives a thumbs up or disappoints us like Neil Young’s Storytone.
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As a whole, Poison Season was a nice listen and the combination of a straight up songwriter mixing in an almost full orchestral vibe in some tracks is very well done. The thing about Dan Bejar is that he never ceases to stop presenting something new and different that just keeps you wanting to hear more, almost like an audible story you want to know how it will end. There are so many influences and similarities to other artists shining throughout but Bejar is making his style his own. My favorite tracks off the album were “Dream Lover” and “River“. For any NYC resident or lover, the love affair with the city is apparent lyrically throughout the album. I give this one a thumbs up.
Poison Season gets a strong thumbs-up from me. The horns on “Dream Lover” and the hooked me from first listen. This jazzier, sultry reinvention of “Archer on the Beach” is a stark contrast to the 2010 collaborative version with Tim Hecker. It is another example of Bejar’s chameleonic abilities as a musician who refuses to make the same album twice. Poison Season has a cosmopolitan vibe, especially evident when he’s crooning like Sinatra on the subdued “Girl in a Sling” and channeling Bryan Ferry on “Solace’s Bride.” Sure, his Dylan-esque vocal phrasing is still present, and the saxophones may have a bit of a Springsteen sound at times, but I’m betting listeners 20 years from now will consider Dan Bejar their generation’s David Bowie. The man creates music that is ever-changing, to the displeasure of some but to the delight of many.
As a big fan of The New Pornographers I have always loved Dan Bejar contributions to that indie super group but have just recently started to dive into his Destroyer catalog. The man is a true artist combining so many eras and styles of music into his own sound that comes off effortless, beautiful, and just plain cool. Poison Season is a wild combination of jazz, 80’s and 70’s inspired pop, glam rock and everything in between. I was very nervous after hearing the opening track, “Times Square, Poison Season 1” but was quickly sucked in with “Dream Lover”. I love Bejar’s use of the sax, a difficult instrument to implement as effectively as he does. I equally enjoyed “The River” with its fantastic piano opening to the slow addition of more instruments include further great use of horns. This is a really cool album that will fit great with the upcoming fall weather.
I have to admit that after hearing the first song, “Times Square, Poison Season I”, I was a little apprehensive of what was to come on Dan Bejar’s latest album. While the lyric “Jesus is beside himself” is memorable, the symphonic sound gave me reflections of Neil Young’s Storytone. However, as is always the case with Bejar, he’s full of surprises. There’s no single sound or approach used, but instead Bejar applies so many sounds, instruments, and arrangements that you’re kept on your toes so as to miss anything. The one song that fully encapsulates the album’s scatter-gun approach is “Midnight Meet the Rain”, which ranges from ’70s rock to jazz pop to Hawaii Five-O. “Dream Lover” takes the symphonic sound of the opener and jazzes it up into a bubbly pop number while “Forces From Above” is chaotic, but it matches the theme of disorganization that Bejar sings. And while I adore the Dylan-esque “Times Square” and the Gil Scott-Heron vibe on “Hell”, it is “River” that really blows me away. From the piano-laced beginning to the whirlwind of instruments that collide in the song’s middle, the song epitomizes the greatness in Bejar, where he can take any genre and make it utterly cool.
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Image from Dead Oceans
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