Search anywhere in The Five Boroughs of New York City, and the ultra-commercialized hub of Times Square is hardly considered an area ripe with culture and poetry. Daniel Bejar, AKA Destroyer has ignored this and instead chose it as the re-occurring setting on his new record Poison Season.
The Vancouverite channels affection at its most bittersweet, using this location to tell the vague narrative of four characters: Jesus, Jacob, Judy and Jack, all entwined in despair ranging from the most divine to the mere mortal, devoting three versions of one song to the tortured souls sucked into the black hole that is NYC.
On Poison Season, Bejar has borrowed little from the Brian Eno-infused lounge pop of 2011’s remarkable Kaputt, instead arranging a series of cinematic songs swathed in strings and horns. Watermarked with Bejar’s sharp literary genius, it’s a welcome broadening of horizons for his brand of sophisti-pop. There are a few instances where Bejar showcases the previous repertoire that at one time made him a valid contributor to the discography of Canadian rockers The New Pornographers, namely the jangly “Dream Lover”.
Throughout his career playing under the Destroyer moniker, Bejar has mastered the ability of adapting his own idiosyncratic style and abstract poetic devices towards sophisticated territory in folk, rock and jazz. With this understanding, Bejar is one of only a handful of artists who can break new ground while still somehow sounding familiar.
With Poison Season, Bejar has expanded on the thematic private-library philosophy of 2006’s Destroyer’s Rubies by upping the theatrics on his personal brand of sound. The record plays out like a grand production of modern urban drama, with Bejar’s lyrics in each song serving as some sort of complex third-person narrative. Aside from the correlations of being a modern Hunky Dory, the album covers a lot of emotional ground, with droll lyrics such as “Suffering everywhere you’d look…really good in that thing” filling the need to accentuate any emphasis on pain, despair, love and humor throughout. But as previously stated, this area of educated aesthetic is one that Bejar absolutely thrives in. Destroyer’s songwriting technique of blending a cultivated poetic intellect with an occasional lack of eloquence (read: profanities) is a unique encounter in this day and age. His music itself is refined in a way that’s matched by few, and revered by many.
The impressive work on Poison Season is no exception, and Bejar/Destroyer continues to push the envelope on this particular style, highlighted by semi-humorous musings such as “I think I used to be more fun, Ah shit, here comes the sun.” The bottom line is that Poison Season processes everything that makes Destroyer’s music accessible yet distinctive to the everyday listener. Maybe even to those unsuspecting individuals milling about in Times Square.
Chris Dowbiggin is a graduate of broadcast journalism at Sheridan College. Besides Ultimate Frisbee, his true passions lie in his musings on music and pop culture. You can follow him on twitter here.