Destroyer’s new album ‘Kaputt’ delivers

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Photo courtesy of Merge Records

By Andrew Lopez

Dan Bejar, who has released nine albums under the “Destroyer” name for over 10 years, has always been distinct in sound and style. From the often-indecipherable poetry that are his lyrics, to complex song structures that challenge most first-time listeners, Bejar has found permanency in the eclectic. On his latest effort, “Kaputt,” released on Merge Records, Bejar transforms himself again, lulling casual listeners into believing he’s made a simple album. The truth is “Kaputt” is one of the most subtly intricate albums you will hear this year (I know it’s only early, but mark my words).

For those of you not acquainted with Bejar, his instruments of choice have long been piano and guitar. On “Kaputt” though, Bejar opts for an 80s feel, using sleepy synthesizers and dreamy guitar effects. Also taking part regularly on the album are horns and saxophones, adding a smooth jazz feel that isn’t at all as bad as its name implies. The result is a seemingly effortless amalgamation of pensive beauty.

Album opener, “Chinatown,” begins with a lead-in from the drums, which quickly introduces the atmospheric guitar that might register well with fans of The Cure or other ‘80s shoegaze bands. Just under halfway through the track, a horn leads a break in the song, establishing itself as a major contributor throughout the album along with the saxophone, often dueling and converging making bright sounds that rest easy on the listeners’ ears.

The fourth track, “Suicide Demo For Kara Walker,” clocks in as the albums second-longest song at eight minutes, taking its time to build with moody synthesizers until the rhythm section takes over. Bejar, known for his unusual croon, is much more subdued than usual, complimenting the quiet complexities of the song. What truly makes the song listenable is that it hypnotizes and enchants, mixing and matching around nine different parts that work together to make a cool, confident and calculated piece of music.

The title track of the album may serve as its most accessible to listeners. “Kaputt” drives forward with smooth intent, dressed in more dreamy synth lines and horns. Speaking of smooth, the album wouldn’t have the same carefree vibe, if not for the always-on-point bass that once again leads the rhythm section that leads the entire song. Bejar’s enigmatic lyrics are on playful display as he sings, “wasting your days / chasing some girls / alright, chasing cocaine / through the backrooms of the world / all night.” This song sneaks up on you, finding its way into your brain where it won’t leave until you’ve given it a few good listens.

The album closes with the 11+ minute song, “Bay Of Pigs (Detail).” It begins with a pulsating effect, creating a tense atmosphere as Bejar slowly explains, “Listen, I’ve been drinking / as our house lies in ruin.” The downtrodden sentiment continues for several more minutes. At seven minutes, all of the familiar instruments finally meet, and they don’t look back. For the next four minutes, handclaps punctuate the dance worthiness of what is truly an epic song. It’s a perfect end to the album.

Dan Bejar is a master at making challenging, eclectic albums. On “Kaputt,” Bejar has crafted yet another completely original album that offers the kind of consistency that most artists can’t achieve in their entire career. Don’t be discouraged if “Kaputt” isn’t an instant hit with you, instead, let it subtly work its way into your favorites, just as it was intended to do.

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