Dan Bejar, an occasional member of the New Pornographers and Swan Lake, has been recording as Destroyer for nearly two decades, varying his style with every album. On Kaputt, his tenth full length release, Bejar takes on some of the most poorly regarded musical styles of American history: 80’s pop, smooth jazz, and easy listening.
You read that right. Bejar’s album is full of that smoky, dreamy 80’s synth-wash sound, complete with flutes, hi-hats, and jazz saxophone. Think Kenny G. This style choice is almost enough to turn some listeners away, but Bejar finds a way to make these elements fresh, largely thanks to his songwriting. He juxtaposes the music with lyrics that are witty, self-aware, and full of longing.
Bejar’s songs flow into each other, creating a series of airy vignettes. There is an endless string of girls’ names: Nancy, Magnolia, Christine, Ava, and Mary Jane. There are the ever-present pop culture references. Most of the lyrics are about the adolescent search for love. On the title track, Bejar mumbles, “Wasting your days chasing some girls all right/chasing cocaine to the back rooms of the world all night/oh, sounds like a dream to me.” To Bejar, who was born in 1972, the 80’s are nostalgia.
Kaputt is Dan Bejar’s love letter to the sounds of his youth. Still, with each listen, I find myself (a 90’s kid) recognizing this nostalgia as if it were my own. The fragmented stories seem familiar, and I think I might know a few of the girls he mentions. Kaputt is charming in that way. Yes, it features a much-disliked musical aesthetic and mixes it with self-absorbed references and memories. But it doesn’t care, because everyone will nod along anyway.