January 24, 2011
Destroyer‘s Kaputt is the best album I’ve heard so far in 2011 and my favorite of Dan Bejar’s nine albums. Much has been said about the album’s vintage 80’s sound (referred to as soft-rock, smooth jazz, or “ambient disco” depending on who you’re talking to) but I find it amazing how Bejar has taken a style of music that is easily laughed off and used it as the medium for his most ravishing work. The album strikes a balance of being faithful to the sound, with it’s palette of airy synths, extravagant woodwinds and soulful back-up singers, and creating something entirely new that’s both whimsical and stunning. The best example is the lively eight-minute epic, “Suicide Demo for Kara Walker”, the centerpiece of the album and the track that fully realizes its’ potential.
The song’s curious title is actually far less sinister then you may expect on first glance. The “Suicide” the title refers to is the 70’s synth-rock band and Kara Walker is a contemporary artist who collaborated with Bejar on the songs’ free association lyrics. The track opens with a hazy blend of synths, guitar, piano and flute that immediately puts you in a trance-like state. Everything about the song evokes a dream from the abstract lyrics to Bejar’s drowsy, sly vocal delivery. The lyrics are nonsensical by nature, yet never boring, feeling like long run-on sentences that are full of interesting words and clever turn of phrases (“Longings, longings, longings, all in vain, just ask Vanity, abandoned out in the rain by the world, another proud American”). Most breathtaking is the song’s instrumental refrain, a captivating display of dueling instrumentation amidst the pulsating electronic backdrop. The horns and woodwinds take turns one-upping each other with their increasingly flamboyant improvisations, resulting in the most arresting musical passage I’ve heard this year. In other words, a masterpiece.
Purchase Kaputt at Merge Records.