Archive for the 'dan bejar' Category

CD Review: Destroyer – Trouble In Dreams (Rough Trade)

Destroyer - Trouble In Dreams
It’s over two years since the release of Destroyer’s last album, the utterly brilliant Destroyer’s Rubies, but Dan Bejar barely seems to have been away, releasing albums with The New Pornographers, Swan Lake and Hello, Blue Roses in the interim. Though I love his work with the New Pornos, I haven’t heard anything from the other two albums that would convince me to buy them. The release of a new Destroyer album, however, is something I have been looking forward to for some time.

Trouble In Dreams doesn’t throw up any great surprises, and it doesn’t have the consistency, nor the intensity, of Rubies, but it is still an excellent album, as long as you give it the time of day. As with most of his work, central to the album’s appeal (to me at least) are Bejar’s lyrics and his unique voice. Though I haven’t a clue what he’s singing about most of the time, I love Bejar’s lyrics, the way that every once in a while a line will jump out at you from nowhere; and the almost arch manner in which he sings them, a bit like Dylan but with crystal clear enunciation so that you can hear each and every word. He seems to acknowledge the cryptic nature of his lyrics on the low-key, and ultimately disappointing, opener “Blue Flower/Blue Flame” when he teases the listener with “I’ll tell you what I mean by that / maybe not in seconds flat / maybe never”.

Second song in the album really gets going with the exhuberant “Dark Leaves Form A Thread” and builds from there. The gorgeous “Foam Hands” is one of the most straight forward, uncomplicated songs that Bejar has ever written, and one of the best. It’s followed by “My Favourite Year” which starts with a delicious guitar riff and halfway through has Bejar yelping the line “beware the company you reside in” over and over. Either side of this outburst are two cracking verses that contain the finest vocal melodies on the album and more of Bejar’s obtuse lyricism (“let me just sit here and eat these almonds”). But these are just appetisers for the main course which arrives at the album’s mid-point in the form of “Shooting Rockets (From the Desk of Night’s Ape)”, an eight minute slow-burning epic that builds and builds and has another wonderfully simple guitar part running through Bejar’s words like a fresh water stream through a dense forest. It’s also full of the sort of lines that can jump out and hit you square in the face should your attention have been caught wandering – “Saw you down in Strathcona Square devouring an After Eight” (what’s with all the eating?) and “It’s not that I quit. It’s not that my poems are shit” being of particular note.

There’s no way left but down after this and the album tapers off, never again reaching the heights of those three previous songs. “Introducing Angels”, “Rivers” and “Leopard Of Honor” are all excellent but “Plaza Trinidad” and the closing “Libby’s First Sunrise” have yet to really sink in, though I’m sure I’ll warm to them eventually.

Trouble In Dreams is unlikely to bring in too many new fans in the way that Rubies did, but existing fans will probably devour it. Like an After Eight.

Destroyer – Foam Hands

Destroyer – My Favourite Year

Posted by The Ledge on 21st March 2008 at 1:17 am | comments (2)
File under CD Reviews,dan bejar,destroyer,mp3,Reviews,trouble in dreams.

Gig Review: New Pornographers, Manchester Academy 3, Nov. 20, 2007

Kathryn Calder of The New PornographersTo say I’d been looking forward to the return of the New Pornographers to Manchester was an understatement. The new album, Challengers, is a great romp and the addition of Kathryn Calder as a full time member of the band has added even more spark to the massive harmonies. Even knowing that neither Neko Case or Dan Bejar could be bothered coming over to Europe (even though they’ve played all the American dates), did very little to dampen my excitement.

First, however, we had to endure a band called It Hugs Back. Now, they weren’t the worst opening band I’ve ever seen. They play very American-influenced indie guitar rock and a couple of tracks early on in their set were not bad. The last two songs, which they said were their singles clearly sounded like they’d been written to record label specifications about “how to write a radio-friendly single” and they were pretty mundane. Frankly, however, the name “It Hugs Back” is so bad, and so evocative of whingey emo, that even if they had been the best band I had ever seen in my entire life, I would never buy one of their albums. I’d be too embarassed to have that CD in my collection. Sorry guys, but I have to draw the line somwhere. I mean, I can handle a name like “I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness” mainly because it pretty much describes what they sound like. “…And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead” is just clever. “Death Cab For Cutie” evokes smiles. But, “It Hugs Back”? Really? I don’t think so. As I have no idea what “It” is, I certainly don’t want “It” to be tactile. Stand back please. Way back. Further still. Thank you.The New Pornographers Live

Now the New Pornos…the last time I saw them, in the Night & Day touring Twin Cinema, had been a great gig but for one problem – the sound was so poor that we could barely tell what songs they were playing. We couldn’t hear the vocals at all. I assumed it was the venue as occasionally the sound is ropey in there. It wasn’t the venue. While we could distinguish the songs this time as the instruments sounded great, we could still barely hear the vocals. One guy even told the band and they tried to fix it. Sadly, they didn’t quite manage. As so much of their sound is in the complex harmonies, this does detract a bit from the sound. Thankfully, their enthusiasm on stage more than made up for the problems with the sound.

The set was great. Gleeful opener “All the Things That Go to Make Heaven and Earth,” from Challengers moving quickly into “Use It” from Twin Cinema. “Jackie Dressed In Cobras” which appeared about five songs in sounded so different without the distinctive sound of Dan Bejar that I almost didn’t recognise it, but A.C. Newman more than compensated for his absence by making the vocal all his own.

Blaine Thurier of The New Pornographers gives Justhipper some feedbackI was thrilled to hear “The Laws Have Changed” which is the song that got me interested in them in the first place, recent single “My Rights Versus Yours” was an enthusiastic singalong and “Mass Romantic” kept the pace. The crowd were friendly and even the young hecklers stood behind The Ledge were more amusing than anything. With such a full stage I didn’t know where to look. A.C. Newman never stops moving, Kathryn Calder never stops smiling, drummer Kurt Dahle was pulling weird faces and kept sticking his tongue out in between delivering backing vocals, and Blaine Thurier kept making eye contact with much of the front row, smiling, nodding, and, in my case, giving me the finger as I photographed him playing the harmonica.

The energy actually kept building from start to finish right through to main set-closers “Sing Me Spanish Techno” which prompted lots of dancing and “The Bleeding Heart Show” which suffers a bit from the lack of Neko’s booming voice coming in at the end, although maybe this was because we could barely hear Kathryn Calder singing and not so much the actual absence of the queen of alt.country.

The encore of “Letter from an Occupant” and “The Slow Descent into Alcoholism” was the perfect finish to a great set, especially as we made away with a full, sealed bottle of beer, kindly donated to me by Kurt Dahle as he came back onto the stage.

We walked away infinitely satisfied with the performance delivered by a group who are rapidly becoming one of the most-played bands here at Indie Cred HQ. Hopefully they’ll be back again soon.

There’s a link to the full set up at Thunderfrogs.

Or, you could just listen to a couple of tracks:

The New Pornographers – The Bleeding Heart Show

The New Pornographers – Challengers

Posted by JustHipper on 24th November 2007 at 2:37 pm | comments (4)
File under ac newman,dan bejar,Gig Reviews,kathryn calder,manchester gigs,mp3,neko case,the new pornographers.