Dan Bejar used to be known for his almost comical verbosity — strings of rhymes that seemed to come too close to one another — and a voice that would stick out readily over any arrangement. His work of the early and mid-2000s would periodically demonstrate a formidable pop prowess, especially his album-stealing contributions to the New Pornographers’ albums. But just as often on his variegated Destroyer releases, his extended, epic-poetic compositions would challenge one’s attention span. He was, among other things, the last artist you would ever deem “smooth.”
Bejar’s 2011 album Kaputt, however, found him juxtaposing his circuitous melodic cadences and abstract, sometimes cynical lyrics with glittery synth washes and heavy sax work. The album had an undeniable adult-contemporary bent, in the best way possible — something like Bryan Ferry’s solo work in the ‘80s or Bowie’s Let’s Dance album. This was a surprising new sound for a project that had already been around for well over a decade, mostly specializing in guitar-driven music that was all angles and even abrasive.
Destroyer’s newest, Poison Season, adopts a more diverse sound palette, without abandoning the more disciplined lyrical sensibility of Kaputt. Even more than on that album, though, there is a rich melodic sensibility here, supported occasionally by lush, sometimes daring chamber orchestra arrangements (“Bird in a Sling,” “Times Square, Poison Season I”), kitschy gestures toward jazz fusion (“Forces from Above”), overstuffed rock arrangements at the decibel level of Bruce’s E Street Band (see lead-off single, “Dream Lover”) and more. The control variable is the tasteful, broken-in strength of Bejar’s songwriting, now carried by an unusually committed, sensitive croon.
The album comes out next Friday the 28th, but you can preview it now in full at NPR.