Destroyer: Kaputt


RIYL: Dirty Projectors, David Bowie, anything on Kompakt

Though he may be more known for his role in indie rock supergroup the New Pornographers, Dan Bejar has been enticing people into his strange world for the past 15 years via Destroyer. Backed by a frequently rotating cast of band members, Bejar uses Destroyer to craft his own brand of avant-pop-rock, unmistakable to anyone who has ever heard it. Over the course of nine albums, he weaves tales of numerous women, told in a hybrid of speech-yelp-singing with non-sequiturs, dense, visually striking metaphors (so dense someone created a Wiki for them), and references to his own body of work. So what happens when you’ve spent 15 years basically perfecting your own genre? What happens when what starts out as weird suddenly becomes the standard? With Kaputt, Destroyer’s ambitious tenth album, Bejar proves he can still make us question our notions of normality and taste.

When he serenades someone in “Blue Eyes” with the line, “Your first love’s New Order,” Bejar surely must be speaking of himself, because with the heavy synths, the saxophone and the female backing vocals that flutter throughout Kaputt, he seems to be unleashing his inner ‘80s. But, as tacky and oppressive as those reference points can be, under Bejar’s particular guidance, they are transformed into something delicate, as though he accidentally played dance records at half-speed and heard something he liked.

The first half of “Suicide Demo For Kara Walker” would make a decent soundtrack for footage of outer space. It opens with slow, steady synths, various sounds floating in and out of the background, such as a quiet guitar riff, light chimes, and what sounds like someone breathing. The song shifts drastically about half-way through, when some relative of the flute jumps in, followed by Bejar’s voice, cautioning, “Fool child, you’re never gonna make it / New York City just wants to see you naked, and they will / Though they’d never say so.” By the time the backing vocals arrive, one might conjure an image of Bejar in a white suit, performing at a hotel somewhere in Hawaii with a Robert Palmer-style all-woman band.

Though it arrives at the end of the album, “Bay of Pigs” serves as the obvious transition piece between Kaputt and Destroyer’s earlier works. Loosely relating to the 1961 invasion of Cuba, Bejar built an EP around it last year. In its original form, “Bay of Pigs” was over 13 minutes long. In its slightly trimmed down length, the 11-minute opus still finds time to transition from droning ambience to scaling blips that sound like they could come from an early Nintendo game, to the guitar-based avant-pop sound he became known for, complete with hand claps. It was around “Bay of Pigs” that Bejar’s record label, Merge, coined the term “ambient disco,” which is the most apropos classification for anything off of Kaputt.

Take off one of those Ts, and Kaputt becomes “kaput,” which means to incapacitate, break, ruin, or destroy. Knowing Bejar’s self-referential tendencies, it could be that he found a cheeky way to create a self-titled album. But with the new direction he’s embarking on, it speaks more fittingly to the ways he is destroying the Destroyer of the past, killing his old sound to create something new. (Merge 2011)

Destroyer MySpace page

  

Bullz-Eye’s Best of 2010: Staff Writer Scott Malchus’ picks

Each year, when I sort through my favorite songs, I have trouble ranking them because each one has a different meaning to me. I always wind up creating a mixtape (or a playlist, for you younger readers) of those songs and arrange them so that the music flows like a great album or concert set. Without further ado, here’s my mix of the twenty songs I returned to for repeated listens throughout 2010.

“Fade Like a Shadow,” KT Tunstall
Tunstall continues to produce pop gems that are spirited, bright and full of life. This single from her latest, Tiger Suit, has everything you want in a single: a passionate delivery, a great melodic hook, and a unique rhythm that helps it stand out from other songs. A great way to kick off a mix tape.

“I Should Have Known It,” Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
The lead single from Mojo has that vintage Petty snarl and bite. The rest of the album may be a mixed bag, but this great rocker builds to kick-ass guitar jam and stands up with some of their best.


Read the rest after the jump...

The New Pornographers: Together


RIYL: Neko Case, Canada, indie-pop musical theater

Since 2003, there have been only two years in which Carl Newman, leader of the indie-pop superstars the New Pornographers, has not put out an album. And for a stretch there, that was a good thing; you’d be hard pressed to find a one-two-three punch from anyone that rivals the New Porns’ 2003’s Electric Version, Carl’s solo album The Slow Wonder, and the New Porns’ staggering Twin Cinema (2005). That last album had half a dozen songs alone that could each start its own religion.

Since then, the goings have been, well, fine, but a far cry from the band’s best work. Challengers (2007) has aged decently enough, but still doesn’t contain a moment that rivals, say, “The Bleeding Heart Show” or “The Laws Have Changed.” Unfortunately, the band’s latest album, Together, doesn’t contain anything that rivals the best work on Challengers. It’s not a bad record, per se; it’s simply an average record from a band that has to this point been anything but average.

Sure, anyone who likes “Mutiny, I Promise You” will enjoy “Crash Years,” and fans of “Use It” will like the unofficial title track “Your Hands (Together).” Likewise, there are a million bands who would kill to call this album their own. But this is not some other band’s album – it’s a New Pornographers album, and they can frankly do better than this. They didn’t phone it in – the album’s final track, the other unofficial title track “We End Up Together,” is one of those reach-for-the-stars moments – but it appears that Newman’s well is running a little drier than it had been five or so years ago. Hey, writing good songs is hard – there’s a reason only a handful of people are truly good at it. If Newman needs an extra two years between albums to charge the batteries, that’s fine with us. We can wait. (Matador 2010)

New Pornographers MySpace page
Click to buy Together from Amazon

  

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