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Album review: Destroyer – ken

In his twelfth studio album as Destroyer, Dan Bejar embraces his notoriously cryptic lyricism more than ever. Bejar is a true veteran of the music industry, racking up an abundant discography with several bands and acting as the main songwriter to Canadian supergroup The New Pornographers. Destroyer acts as his avenue to release solo projects that don’t quite fit with his other groups, ken being the latest demonstration of Bejar’s unplaceable and genreless singularity.

ken is a standalone record, experimental in nature yet reminiscent of artists like David Bowie and The Cure. Signature to his style, the imagery built around Bejar’s lyrics is crass and often cringe-worthy, contrasting the smooth and melodic instrumentation they are laid upon. Much like the persona adopted by Bejar, each track goes against the grain but is in no way out of place, effortlessly fighting the current. His songs are not necessarily “about” anything in particular. Instead, they create an undercurrent that fixes itself to the instrumentation without completely fitting in, providing a unique sense of texture to the album as a whole.

“Tinseltown Swimming in Blood” is the standout track, where the music and entertainment industry is softly satirized. However, he goes further than just making fun of Hollywood shenanigans. “Tinseltown” can also serve as a warning. To Bejar, the industry clearly isn’t just glitter and glam; there is something sinister and macabre running throughout the scene that he finds repulsive. The song fades into a chantey of Bejar repeating “I was a dreamer/Watch me leave,” most likely to emphasize how he was still able to make it as a musician without having to compromise his values.

At one point, Bejar was to be an academic. He studied English and philosophy at the University of British Columbia for three years before dropping out. To his credit, he is still practicing the skills he acquired at university, raising questions and writing lyrics that blur the lines between poetry and songwriting. He has a strong and clear vision of exactly what he wants to release to listeners, and has been doing it his own way for over twenty years. One can only hope that there is more on the horizon.

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