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Destroyer

indie seen live indie rock Canadian singer-songwriter

Destroyer is a Canadian rock band from Vancouver, British Columbia fronted by singer-songwriter Dan Bejar and formed in 1995. Destroyer songs are characterized by abstract, poetic lyrics and idiosyncratic vocals. The band's discography draws on a variety of musical influences, resulting in albums that can sound markedly distinct from one another; in Bejar's words, "That's kind of my goal: to start from scratch every time."

1996–2001
We'll Build Them a Golden Bridge, Destroyer's 1996 debut, is made up of sixteen lo-fi home-recordings. One reviewer suggested that the album combines Bejar's "gift for melodies" with “a concerted effort to make the recording downright inconsumable; the guitars are always out of tune, and the vocals of Fisher-Price quality. 'Static means punk / tuning is junk,' Bejar moans on one track.” (Ideas for Songs, released on cassette in 1997, features songs akin to those on his first album. The cassette stemmed from a request to contribute songs for a compilation album.)

As Bejar gained popularity in Vancouver's music scene, he was joined by producer John Collins for 1998's City of Daughters, which was recorded at a proper studio. Pitchfork noted that the songs still sounded "homespun," also noting "he wordiness that would become something of a trademark is in full effect," but that "unlike much of what came later, not every line is worthy of examination."

Thief (2000) embodied "Bejar's first stab at matching his grandiose, idiosyncratic vision to a showier sound;" it was the first to feature a backing band on every track. The record's "anthemic yet understated" piano-driven ballads have characteristically enigmatic lyrics, though some reviewers interpreted them as critiques of the music industry.

Streethawk: A Seduction (2001) realized the sonic refinement started with City of Daughters. Bejar put it this way: "I don't think it gives credence to any kind of conceptualization of the records, but I hope that City of Daughters, Thief, and Streethawk will pop into some kind of a progression that ends with Streethawk.“ A critical success, the album (retrospectively) received a rating of 9.1/10 from Pitchfork.

2002–2007
The 2002 rock album This Night was a dramatic change in style. The looser, less rehearsed style was criticized as "messy haphazard without purpose," though other critics praised the "beautiful mess of sounds" as "challenging… a powerful, cohesive whole." In a 2006 interview (after the release of Your Blues and Destroyer's Rubies), Bejar said the album "came together pretty quickly - we probably could have used more than four or five days to mix the whole thing, but that's all hindsight. It's still my favorite Destroyer record."

Your Blues (2004) saw Destroyer take another unexpected turn, using MIDI instrumentation for almost all the backing music. Bejar coined the term "European blues" to describe its unique, theatrical sound. One reviewer pointed out that "Bejar’s unusual voice sounds more confident, and higher up" in the synth-rich arrangements. In yet another twist, the EP Notorious Lightning & Other Works reworked six tracks from the record with a live band, the very thing the LP had forsaken (the band was Frog Eyes, who toured with Destroyer in support of Your Blues).

Bejar returned with a live band for 2006's Destroyer's Rubies, delivering arguably his most confident record up to that point. The backing band took new-found prominence and, according to Bejar, "he production seems… warm and lush and pretty focused on just making the band sound good and having everything sit well together." NOW Magazine observed, "hile the sheer density of Bejar’s writing can be overwhelming, Destroyer’s Rubies is, on a musical level, the most ’accessible’ disc he’s released."

2008–2013
For Trouble in Dreams (2008), "there was a scary lack of ideas coming into the record," Bejar admitted. Destroyer's piano player Ted Bois took it upon himself, as an alternative to keyboard and piano accompaniment, to create all string and synth arrangements for the songs. At the time, Bejar said it was the "hardest record" to make.

After the 2009 EP Bay of Pigs came 2011's full-length album, Kaputt (featuring a slightly modified "Bay of Pigs" track). Bejar cited influences such as Miles Davis and Roxy Music for his new jazz-infused, lounge music-inspired, sophisti-pop direction. In multiple interviews, Bejar variously stressed that he "sang in a completely different manner, almost unconscious of even singing, more like speaking into a vacuum, and was really happy with the results." The record entailed a number of firsts for Destroyer: first national television performance (on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon); first official music video; first female backing vocals; and the first time Bejar performed without an instrument on tour - his concentration placed solely on his singing. Kaputt was short listed for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize and was Pitchfork's second best album of 2011.

Although smaller in scale, Destroyer's fourth EP "Five Spanish Songs" continued to surprise listeners. Sung entirely in Spanish, Bejar covered songs by Sr. Chinarro (es). Bejar's own tongue-in-cheek press release announcing the new songs began: "It was 2013. The English language seemed spent, despicable, not easily singable."

2014–present
Bejar released Poison Season on August 28, 2015. Bejar notes that the album's sound grew from "just really getting into what we were sounding like playing live ." Bejar added that he would not have been able to make such an ambitious album if Kaputt had not been successful. Recorded with a live band and a pronounced string section, the album's "grand cinematic set of songs" feature Bejar singing with a broader range than before: "This is the first record that I've ever done that comes close to my idea of myself as a singer," Bejar said.

In 2017, Bejar released ken.


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