Yes, we have ourselves a new Destroyer, Trouble In Dreams, though it seems like Dan Bejar’s always with us. Whether it’s contributing myriad great tunes to a New Pornographers album or running co-pilot in the Yukon with his lady Sydney Vermont in Hello, Blue Roses (Vermont put her art skills to use, painting
Trouble opens simply with the strummed and soloed acoustic-leaning “Blue Flower/Blue Flame.” (Compare this opener for “Rubies,” for an idea of where the albums stand.) The link to Hello, Blue Roses seems clear, though who knows? What we do know, is that Bejar remains the king of sweet-talking pick-up lines: “Blue Flower/Blue Flame, a woman by another name is not a woman. / I’ll tell you what I mean by that. Maybe not in seconds flat, maybe not today..” and “I gave you a flower because foxes travel light and a penny for your thought was never enough / you’re head gets filled with that stuff.” Yeah, we could go on quoting this guy for hours. Brilliant words (and delivery), per usual. And the ennui in his voice on this one is fucking great: “It was time I decided to try this hotel: / her world…”
After that, things lean towards the baroque (an overused word, but that’s what it is…). Before going full-on large-scale, he has a couple briefer tunes, the catchy, trilling, windswept “Dark Leaves A Thread” and its piano and organ lines, café cool (“No, it’s cool / You go. / I’ll stay, perfectly home with this dread…”) and “na na na na” chorusing. Then things get uproarious with the heavily percussive, protest anthem of sorts, “The State” (the state even tore down his baby’s favorite tree). We’ve seen a live “Foam Hands” (with another excellent, more ragtime album track “Rivers” … “you’ve always had a problem flowing down rivers…”) and heard the sweet, gorgeous, stringed and tambourined album track.
Which leads us to the almond-eating, palm-tree coveting standout “My Favorite Year,” with its “beware the company you reside in!” brimstone repetitions, uncredited female (or male falsetto?) backup vocals, and untiring build. And then he sings this: “Nicole – she, blasted on ecstasy / in some East Pendar hovel circa 1993. / It was a good year, it was a very good year. / And now it’s gone, / they’re saying the whole point of everything’s the ‘moving on.’ / Well, I can’t help but feel somewhat opposed to this, / my shit having been torched by fascists. / Though, in some small way, we’re all traitors to our own kind….” Yowza. It’s also where the increased orchestral moments are most felt: the slowly fading strings, Bejar’s count-off, the newborn guitar flange, and a strummed outro.
We don’t love everything on here, but he knows how to pull off audacity with the best of ‘em — the short story in a song, Swan Lake-referencing “Shooting Rockets (From The Dark Of Night’s Ape),” anyone? He can also do tenderness: See the common scars of “Introducing Angels” and the muted histrionics (“Oh, the light!”) of the closer, “Libby’s First Sunrise.” Lots of guitar and hand claps, as though the sunrise of “Blue Flower/Blue Flame” turned dark (“the light holds a terrible secret”), its crispness given a larger, back-loaded exit. Across Trouble, nighttime, the horizon, and the sky in general come up often, and this seems to be the culmination of whatever Bejar’s working out lyrically (we need more time to get to the bottom of the entire affair).
Whatever the case, a darn good record. This new year has already brought us a few good albums from idiosyncratic lyricists/songwriters. We’re thinking, especially, of recent PE’s documenting John Darnielle’s Heretic Pride and Mr. Malkmus’s Real Emotional Trash. (If you’re keeping track, this is our favorite of those three.) Seems kind of like a sausage party, no? We had Beach House in there, but the last straight-up, big-time female personality we covered was Chan Marshall, who’s conversely making her stuff (or, at least her covers) more smooth and Starbucks. Hurry up, Joanna, record something new.
In the meantime, some “Foam Hands,” friend:
Destroyer – “Foam Hands” (MP3)
Trouble In Dreams is out 3/18 on Merge.