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Destroyer's Rubies

4.2 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 21, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Vancouver's Dan Bejar returns with his sixth full-length under the moniker Destroyer. As expected, it's a thoroughly unexpected collection of clever pop music that takes no prisoners. "Destroyer's Rubies" weaves a narrative of loves won and lost, missed opportunities, and artistic integrity familiar to Destroyer fans. Bejar's Dylanesque flair for biting wit and his nods to the glamorous and bombastic folk approach of early T-Rex and Bowie distance Destroyer from the more straightforward pop of his other band, The New Pornographers, without sacrificing any of the tunefulness of that band's approach. Merge. 2006.

Updating AM radio's finer country-rock moments, Destroyer's Rubies showcases a new trend for Destroyer fans--the full-band, ensemble approach. The album succeeds when could-seem contrived Nashville-inspired themes and sounds (baritone saxophones, electric pianos, quoting Jim Reeves) mingle with full melodies and New Pornographer contributor Dan Bejar's self-styled lyrical phrasing. Happily, this results in a music that's totally appealing. Standouts are "European Oils," featuring some of the most gorgeously layered guitar runs and one of the best solos Bejar's recorded yet; "Painter in Your Pocket," a lovely, thoughtful, pure-pop exploration; and opener "Rubies," a song that's all at once soaring and antiphonal as well as introverted in its demo-recorded coda. The album reveals a spectrum of moods without chaos: There's ballsy rocker "3000 Flowers," breezy The Sea and Cake-at-their-finest "Watercolours into the Ocean," and grandiose psychedelia à la Buffalo Springfield on "Sick Priest Learns to Live Forever." In drawing on the theatrical, macro-orchestrations reminiscent of Scott Walker and expanding on the slapdash, quirky, musical humor of the Red Krayola's Mayo Thompson, this album reaches another peak for Bejar and is one of Destroyer's best works yet. --Gabi Knight

More of Dan Bejar and Destroyer

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This Night

Streethawk: A Seduction

Mass Romantic

Electric Version

Twin Cinema

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 21, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Merge Records
  • ASIN: B000E1158G
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #152,947 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I will honestly say that out of the 50+ albums I heard last year, had this come out 3 months earlier, it would've been in the top 2 (it's a tough choice between this & Sufjan Stevens, although I prefer this). Following the mediocre-to-good release of Your Blues in 2004, I never would have guessed that Destroyer had the capacity to create an album such as this. Dan Bejar, co-lyricist for the ground-breaking power pop band The New Pornographers, along with his bandmates, differ remarkably in texture & purpose from that of the New Porn's; the dense, baroque pop feel is still there, but subdued by the extravagence of the instrumentation. Bejar's vision, as we've seen to a lesser extent on Your Blues, leans toward the avant-garde, a series of formless songs with expert lyricism that he sings over the full instrumentation with the seeming spontaneity of some great 60's jazz-- Andrew Hill's piano or Miles Davis's Jack-Johnson-era trumpet.

The major source of improvement comes from the band itself. Whereas earlier the band backed up Bejar with more constraint, now the band comes forth as wonderfully as Bejar. An album like Rubies comes from the expertise of every single player and, no doubt, the producer (Bejar? I didn't look). The piano and other keyboard instruments are a noteworthy improvement. Like Neutral Milk Hotel's "Aeroplane..." or Okkervil River's brilliant album "Down the River..." Rubies is a swirl of captivating instrumentation and lyrics that listeners can ponder over for years, an epic sort of album where the tracks wind together without explicit conceptual refrains (as in NMH's "Aeroplane...").

It's worth noting that Destroyer recently collaborated with the like-minded, but harder-edged avant-rock group Frog Eyes on a reworking of selections from Your Blues.
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Format: Audio CD
Prior to this release, I was only familiar with Dan Bejar through the New Pornographers. To me his contributions there, while lyrically and musically interesting, seemed a bit distractive vocally. In Destroyer, Bejar is in his own element and has developed his own style. In this setting, we get a complete set of songs that are not in competition with other songwriters and singers. On Destroyer's Rubies, this focused attention reveals much complexity and range. The song arrangements couldn't be better. Some are minimally orchestrated, some have horns, most have piano, organ and rhodes-like keyboards, but all arrangements seem to achieve the songs' greatest potential. Bejar touches on musical styles as diverse as Motown ("Dangerous Woman..."), hippie classic rock a la Deja Vu-era CSNY ("Sick Priest Learns..."), power pop ("3000 Flowers"), and the indie rock of Pavement/Malkmus ("Your Blood" and "Priest's Knees").

Admittedly, Bejar's singing is not for everyone. It wasn't for me initially - but I'm among the converted now. His vocal delivery is kinda half spoken, half sung as Dylan or Lou Reed tends to be; Bejar is perhaps more over the top in his articulation and emotion. Besides his vocal delivery, the tone and quality of his voice is somewhat like Bowie's. I would think most readers who ended up here are open minded enough to get over any initial objections to the vocals. There is too much to like to dismiss it on vocals alone.

The lyrics are weird, ambiguous, and clever. Bejar slyly borrows many lyrical phrases and titles from other artists and puts them into a different melody and context. With almost each new listen, I discover new references and quotations. (he name checks Proud Mary, refers to a golden slumber, uses "I couldn't bare to...
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Format: Audio CD
When Dan Bejar says in "Priest's Knees" that "I was another west coast maximalist exploring the blues", he is only partially having the listener on. By West Coast, he means Vancover which is hardly the sun and fun Amercian audiences associate with the golden coast. And he is hardly just another musician. But the rest just might hold up. Okay maybe not the blues part

Maximalist is certainly apparent however. The instrumentation augments the rock band set-up with pianos, trumpets, and saxaphones. That it never sounds cluttered is quite acchievement. But it is a big sound. Everything seems to be in wide screen and right up front. And while it may not be the blues as we know it, it does mix up country, rock, folk, and, even, prog into something sonically unique. You can call it ramshackle but never sterile. It rollicks, rocks, and swings. (And by damn if it doesn't start to feel like a sea chanty by the time you hit the chorus of Looter's Follies.) For all its outre elements, there is a pop backbone that keeps it all so grounded. Which is a good thing considering the cryptic lyrics.

While all the songs can be seen as being love songs of a sort, Bejar just can't help embroidering them with surreal characters, abstract images, smartass footnotes, and confessional asides. It starts to feel like an epic from an alternate world. It is so easy to get lost in these tone poems. Drawing as much from Dylan as any number of cult rock figures (From Malkmus all the way down to T-Rex), these lyrics are shamelessly literate and often clever. It should be mentioned that they are incredibly insular and delivered in nasal voice that flirts with all sorts of theatrics. They will be the deal breaker for those not already familiar with Bejar's methods.
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