Dan Bejar, who’s 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 February, but mark my words). For those of you not acquainted with Mr. Bejar, his instruments of choice have long been piano and guitar. On Kaputt though, Bejar opts for an 80’s 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 it sounds. The result is a seemingly effortless amalgamation of pensive beauty.
Album opener, “Chinatown,” begins with a lead-in from the drums, and then quickly introduces an atmospheric guitar. 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 to make 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 more subdued than usual, complimenting the quiet complexities of the song. What truly makes the song infinitely listenable is it hypnotizes and enchants, mixing and matching around nine different parts that work together to make a confident track.
The title track of the album may serve as its most accessible to listeners who are interested in listening to Destroyer. “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, which then 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, Ive been drinking / as our house lies in ruin.” The demoralized sentiment continues for several more minutes. At seven minutes, all of the familiar instruments finally meet again, 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 don’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.