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Posted on August 29th, 2015 (12:00 pm) by Noveen Bajpai

It’s hard to pin down what Destroyer front man Dan Bejar is all about. This is a guy who called the English language despicable, who once even vowed to never play the guitar again. Whats certain, though, is Bejar's affinity for the dramatic, something which is reflected in his unique blend of sexy smooth art rock. It’s intimate and theatrical, often announcing itself with powerful orchestral lifts and wailing saxophones.

Poison Season marks the band’s first full-length follow-up to 2011’s Kaputt, a record which gained Destroyer legions of new followers thanks to its cross-genre appeal, and saw the band flirt with unprecedented levels of commercial success. Now, with more ears than ever listening in, it’d be silly to assume that Bejar would be anything but highly motivated to make a statement: with thirteen songs spanning 52 minutes, Poison Season is a record that’s as lengthy as it is interwoven in its own thematic narrative. Bejar’s attention to the aesthetic power of song titles and album symmetry is evident here—Poison Season is well-thought-out and cohesive, and without a doubt one of the most ambitious albums so far this year.

Times Square is a recurring image on Poison Season. The album’s midpoint is marked by an acoustic pop version of the two songs that bookend the record: the symphonic and ambient “Times Square, Poison Season I” and its second iteration, “Times Square, Poison Season II”. The former features sullen synths and strong orchestral builds, while the latter is even more stripped down, featuring mostly Bejar’s vocals and a piano; both are built around distilled versions of “Times Square,” where a more upbeat tempo reveals a pop-nucleus that remains mostly veiled on the track's more sprawling takes.

Lead single “Dream Lover” is an energetic romp that plunges the listener face-first into a sea of jangly Springsteen-esque power-rock, proving to be a real shot in the arm after the initial malaise of "Times Square, Poison Season I". Like the rest of the album, where Bejar makes good use of saxophone and trumpet solos, bright horns feature heavily on "Dream Lover," something which makes the sinister bassline on the silky jam-band tune “Archer on the Beach” all the more noticeable. The track, which takes its name from Destroyer’s 2010 EP, stands out as less vocal-centric than others on Poison Season. That's something which, considering the album's quality of instrumentation, is especially refreshing.

At times, Bejar’s cinematic lyrical content risks becoming unbearably trite: “Archer is where you left him, with his arrow stuck inside a peach” is covered in the corniest cheese, corny enough to make me contemplate how well Bejar might be suited to soundtracking a Disney film. Take “Girl In A Sling” for example. Though musically quite pleasant, Bejar’s vocals leave me feeling that as if I've just listened to a piece better suited for a melodramatic fairy tale scene than an indie rock album.

Destroyer create a distinct atmosphere on Poison Season. Watery guitars and prominently featured keys give the record strong melodic anchors, and the bursting power of strings and horns do well to repeatedly build blissful tension. Still, for all its exceptionally beautiful moments—like the serene piano riff on “The River” and the syrupy saxophones on “Sun in the Sky“ —Poison Season too often feels sabotaged by Bejar’s vivid, overly theatrical lyrics. Even so, those less fond of Bejar’s out-of-the box vocals will find that Destroyer’s latest LP consists of enough stellar instrumentation to warrant continued listening—it’s a record that is innately challenging, but one with enough moments of refined elegance to mask it’s often comical tendencies toward trite, cinematic lyrical content.

Tracklist

  1. Times Square, Poison Season I
  2. Dream Lover
  3. Forces From Above
  4. Hell
  5. The River
  6. Girl In A Sling
  7. Times Square
  8. Archer on the Beach
  9. Midnight Meet the Rain
  10. Solace's Bride
  11. Bangkok
  12. Sun In The Sky
  13. Times Square, Poison Season II
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

76 / 100
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