Posted on November 22nd, 2013 (12:00 pm) by Nick Manai

What is the Five Spanish Songs EP? Well, it is five songs sung in Spanish. But the bluntness of the title is revealing. Destroyer, the name under which Dan Bejar (fellow Canadian and former member of The New Pornographers) records these days, has always been known for his quick, biting songwriting and distinct voice. After a string of solid records, Bejar released Kaputt in 2011 and saw his name toward the top of some seriously prestigious year end lists. Pitchfork named Kaputt number two behind Bon Iver's self titled LP! There were unabashed saxophone solo's, tormented sing-alongs, a song for America, a letter to the press, and a ten-minute album closer that fluctuates between distilled electronic space and pop sincerity. To put it another way, the dude committed himself to some high ambitions, and it paid off.

But what followed in the wake of Kaputt's success? Why five Spanish songs? Bejar writes that "It was 2013. The English language seemed spent, despicable, not easily singable. It felt over for English; good for business transactions, but that’s about it." They are strong words for a artist who has under his belt the song-as-lyrical-poem, "A Dangerous Woman Up To a Point" and "Suicide Deom for Kara Walker." The latter being a collaboration with artist Kara Walker who presented Bejar with cue cards from which he adapted lyrics, resulting in a fragmented, yet mystical, combination. They are two of Destroyer's best works, but more than that they represent the new heights a skilled song writing can bring to a pre-existing medium.

But if the existence of this EP was born out of dissatisfaction, then the essence of it was born of necessity. Bejar added that, "The only other language I know is Spanish, and the only Spanish songs I really know are those of Sr. Chinarro, led by Antonio Luque. I’ve been a decades-long fan of how he conducted his affairs, his strange words, his melodies that have always felt so natural (this is important), his bitter songs about painting the light. Something about them, I knew I could do it…"

And he can. Five Spanish Songs is a gorgeous work. Bejar's voice is not a natural fit for Spanish, he is Canadian after all, but somewhere these textures have found some common ground that allow it to exist unmuddled. Much of this can go back to the new recording style instituted on Kaputt, where he recorded some of the vocals while lying on the couch. The same deliberate, evenly paced, yet emotionally available delivery resides here, just, you know, in Spanish.

"Maria de Las Nievas" is structured like a country ballad, but one with the rhythm and romance that Spanish recalls to us English speakers. Bejar's voice never reaches much more than a hushed call, but that only adds to the immediacy of his feeling. And there is still the signature Destroyer, "Da-da-da." It is a simple song about being at a party, locked in a room with a beautiful girl. But it is not quite as romantic as all that. "Del Monton" is a jazzy jaunt down on the waters below the San Sebastian. No, literally thats what the song is about, but with a sly existensial smirk which translates into something like, "I looked at the castle / And I thought of Franz Kafka." "El Rito" is a chorus driven rock song with overlapping vocals and flows nicely into hip-swaying rhythms of "Babieca." Previously released "Bye Bye" caps the EP with a smooth Spanish lullaby. If you don't speak Spanish, don't worry. You'll get it.

Five Spanish Songs doesn't suffer from lack of ambition, as much as it confronts it. He could have written new material, he could have come up with lush arrangements, as heard on Kaputt, but instead Bejar almost dares you not to like these songs. Will it make the year end lists? No. Is that a problem?

Track List:
1. Maria de las Nieves
2. Del Monton
3. El Rito
4. Babieca
5. Bye Bye

Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

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76 / 100
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