One of my biggest complaints when it comes to people writing about music is assumed knowledge, or that moment during a review when it becomes obvious that the writer knows next to nothing about the artist or genre about which they happen to be writing. In that spirit, I should say that despite the fact that Poison Season is the tenth release of Dan Bejar’s long career recording with his band as Destroyer, this is the first time he has been on my radar. If you are looking for a discussion of where the album stands in the context of his career, this is not the place.

Instead I can only look at Poison Season in isolation, and the Merge Records release is an opulent collection of pop songs with an independent spirit, one that revels in lush orchestration and the unknown benefits of smooth, ’80s-style saxophone. It is steeped in enigmatic lyrical imagery that always seems to keep Bejar at arm’s length from his listeners, but I’m guessing that’s always been part of the charm of Destroyer albums. It also represents a response to a quietly burgeoning fame following the unexpected success of previous album Kaputt.

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That element surfaces most evidently in “The River,” a more downbeat song whose talk of leaving an urban environment for the embrace of the natural reflects the album’s omnivorous approach to several decades of pop music without much concern for current trends. The regular appearance of the saxophone is the most obvious manifestation of this approach, but Bejar also pulls that brass together with an almost-calypso beat and a string section for the deeply affecting climax of “Forces From Above” as he sings, “The evening progresses like a song into the heavens.”

There is a recurring song suite called “Times Square” that should come off as an indulgence, but somehow the wide variations on the same melodic and lyrical content instead give the album a spine around which to build, despite the evident dip in focus and quality on the album’s final third. On “Archer In The Beach,” a funky bass line sounds oddly jarring, and a lot of what follows does not quite match up to the first half-hour or so.

Then again, that would have been a hell of a standard to keep up for the entire album length. Even in its dips, Poison Season is something to wrap yourself up in just for the sheer warmth of the sound, and at its best, it touches on real beauty. “Girl In A Sling” is the album’s most direct moment, as Bejar sings, “Girl, I know what you’re going through, I’m going there too” over a truly gorgeous arrangement. At the other end of the energy scale, “Dream Lover” is an utterly irresistible upbeat pop song that features a cheeky nod to “Here Comes The Sun.”

I should end this review with another minor confession. The saxophone that is so prominent on Poison Season was also something I was aware of when Kaputt came out, and I dismissed Destroyer as “almost certainly not my cup of tea.” I urge you not to make the same mistake I did. Bejar is a songwriter of real class and variety, and his ongoing growth is a testament to artists who are in it for the long haul.

Tickets are still available for Destroyer’s performance at The Regent Theater on September 20.

Destroyer Tour Dates:

Sep 18 – Portland, OR – Wonder Ballroom
Sep 19 – San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore
Sep 20 – Los Angeles, CA – The Regent Theater
Sep 21 – Phoenix, AZ – The Crescent Ballroom
Sep 23 – Austin, TX – The Mohawk
Sep 24 – Dallas, TX – Trees
Sep 25 – Lawrence, KS – The Granada
Sep 26 – Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line Music Cafe
Sep 27 – Chicago, IL – Thalia Hall
Sep 29 – Ferndale, MI – The Loving Touch
Sep 30 – Toronto, ON – The Danforth Music Hall
Oct 01 – Montreal, QC – Theatre Fairmount
Oct 02 – Boston, MA – Royale
Oct 03 – Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts
Oct 04 – New York, NY – Webster Hall
Oct 05 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
Oct 07 – Asheville, NC – The Grey Eagle
Oct 08 – Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle
Oct 09 – Atlanta, GA – The Loft
Oct 10 – Nashville, TN – Mercy Lounge
Oct 11 – St. Louise, MO – The Ready Room
Oct 13 – Denver, CO – The Bluebird Theater
Oct 14 – Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge
Oct 15 – Boise, ID – Neurolux
Oct 16 – Seattle, WA – The Neptune
Oct 17 – Vancouver, BC – The Commodore Ballroom

For more info:

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