Most Destroyer fans are in it for the long haul, having fallen in love with Dan Bejar’s voice and lyrics at some point in the musician’s long and varied carreer. Bejar has a few musicians who he calls on regularly to accompany him, but the band itself is often in flux, serving more as a conduit for Bejar’s ideas at any one point in time as opposed to a more clear-cut band dynamic. Destroyer’s newest release, Five Spanish Songs, is a departure from Kaputt, but proves a rewarding listen for anyone invested in Bejar’s songwriting and aesthetic.
In early September, Bejar released a statement where he said he felt that the English language “seemed spent, despicable, not easily singable.” Bejar felt the need to justify his decision to interpret five songs written by Spanish musician Antonio Luque, of the band Sr. Chinarro, but no justification is necessary. Destroyer is whatever Bejar wants it to be. On this EP, it is a joyous conduit for songs of better times and sweeter sounds. Bejar’s Spanish roots are channeled here as he seamlessly adapts Luque’s songs to his own unique style, and the results, while musically diverse, are universally successful.
The EP’s lead-off track, “Maria de las Nieves,” is a gentle reminder that anything Bejar touches can turn to gold. Listening with little to no knowledge of the Spanish language cannot hinder the experience, as one is quickly swept up into the world of soft, sweeping guitars. As Bejar’s vocals build to the chorus, his classic meandering style finds a perfect fit. “Bye Bye,” the EP’s single, has a similarly nonchalant feel. It is dreamily romantic and eerily timeless.
There is one true rocker on the album, “El Rito”. Bejar’s lyrics are layered and accompanied by a steady series of hand-claps that bring the beat and infuse the track with a festive appeal. There is a glamourous guitar riff that makes the song difficult to ignore, and, in an odd way, the least Destroyer-esque of all the tracks. “Del Monton” has a jazzy rhythm and a scattish vocal delivery that hints that the song may have a humour to it that those of us unable to speak Spanish might be missing out on. This is one of the few tracks where guitarist Nic Bragg’s signature sound finds its way to shine through, as he has a brief chance to hit the distort pedal, and it sounds magnificent.
There have been musings that newer Destroyer fans might be somewhat taken aback by Bejar’s current solo tour and the Spanish language songs, as they are certainly a departure from Kaputt’s sound. These concerns seem unfounded, though, as true fans of Bejar’s musical oeuvre will see this as a new chapter and a necessary exploration as he tries to keep his passion for music intact. As Destroyer takes a new road, so do its fans, and this newest leg of Dan Bejar’s musical journey will have listeners smiling and dancing the “noche” away.