Dan Bejar doesn't want you to like his new record. He'd appreciate it, but it's not necessary. To him, the success he enjoyed with his last outing (2011's 'Kaputt') matters little, and he would like its follow-up to allow him to carry on as though nothing has changed. Sorry, Dan - that won't wash.
He's taken everything in his stride since he made his bow as part of Destroyer 19 years hence with 'We'll Build Them A Golden Bridge', finding the time to collaborate with ex-Wolf Parade (and current Moonface) man Spencer Krug as part of Swan Lake (who are currently inactive), and also maintain his role in the quasi-supergroup The New Pornographers (very much active, having released 'Brill Bruisers' last year). Circumstances have changed in the four years since Kaputt, however; nominated for the Polaris Music Prize the year it was released, it definitely put him on the map, and is, for better or worse, why he has so many people keenly anticipating his next move.
'Poison Season' sounds nothing like 'Kaputt'. This shouldn't be surprising: 'Kaputt' sounded nothing like 'Trouble In Dreams', which had nothing in common with 'Destroyer's Rubies', and so on. This constant desire for reinvention means he's never lacking purpose, and the state of flux in which Destroyer reside means that 'Poison Season' is possibly the only record Bejar's put out on which he's needed to be aware of others' expectations.
Yet being aware is one thing; conforming to them is another entirely. His latest opus is more concerned with synths than strings; a richly orchestrated work that's bookended by flowery arrangements of album centrepiece 'Times Square', a song which, in its original form, thrives in a much more conventional soft-rock setting.
Bejar's distinctive, breathy voice fights to be heard over the bombastic backing of the orchestral renditions. He's got a fine set of lungs on him, but the supporting players really go for it. It's an appropriately dramatic curtain-raiser that bleeds into the explosive 'Dream Lover', which is swept along by a joyous saxophone hook and relentless, pounding drums. It's one of the most accessible moments on a record that's melodically astute but rarely catchy in the traditional sense.
'Hell' is reminiscent of earlier Patrick Wolf material in its penchant for high drama and obvious classical bent, while 'Girl In A Sling' is delicate and dangerously fragile, somehow simultaneously ornate and intimate, the purest representation of Bejar's intentions on this, the tenth Destroyer album. On initial listens, the more crowded-sounding tracks like 'Forces From Above' and 'Midnight Meet The Rain' can seem difficult and overwhelming, but the record is concerned with its ebb and flow more than anything else.
It's just as well that it's so easy to be swept up in it; 52 minutes pass by in a blur. It's easy listening, while thankfully having nothing whatsoever to do with the much-maligned genre of the same name - and the sort of fascinatingly layered album that appears demanding and austere from the outset - described previously by Bejar as 'dour' - but is in fact home to a set of beautifully realised songs. He doesn't want you to like 'Poison Season'. Good luck with that: at its best, it's irresistible.
Words: Gareth O'Malley
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