CD Review of Trouble in Dreams by Destroyer
Recommended if you like
Frog Eyes, Swan Lake,
Dirty Projectors
Trouble in Dreams

Reviewed by Taylor Long


estroyer, the brainchild of Dan Bejar (also known for his work in the New Pornographers, Swan Lake and Hello, Blue Roses), will never sound like anything other than Destroyer. No matter what new, outlandish styles he adopts – should he try rap, gospel, or opera, it wouldn't matter. There would still be that Destroyer sound.

This is partly because of Bejar's voice, with its mid-high pitch, and his odd way of stretching and experimenting with it. There's something almost childlike about his willingness to push it too far or make it sound unappealing. This approach extends to every aspect of the music. Atonality is not outside the realm of possibility, nor is an odd tempo or a moment of all-out bombast.

Without even counting his numerous side projects, Bejar is rather prolific. His new album, Trouble in Dreams, is his eighth in 12 years. That’s not bad for a man whose side project gained notoriety more quickly than his primary one (Ben Gibbard feels your pain, Dan).

Unsurprisingly, Trouble in Dreams sounds rather similar to the seven Destroyer albums that came before it. Where it differs is a rather important digression, indeed, and that’s its intensity. In this regard, it does suffer from being the follow-up to Rubies, Destroyer’s most majestic and powerful album thus far. Yet the albums before it, even at their most relaxed moments, still contained some of the same urgency, as though Bejar was rushing to get the songs recorded before they evaporated from his hyperactive brain. Trouble in Dreams is far more casual, like he simply happened upon the ideas during a neighborhood stroll. As a result, it’s also tamer and not nearly as erratic.

Without the rampant eccentricities and the air of grandeur, Trouble in Dreams is likely more accessible than some of its predecessors, but that doesn’t necessarily seem to work to his benefit. After hearing Bejar at his most unbridled, it’s hard to want to hear anything else, though it’s certainly understandable. This seems to be his mind exhaling after an intense freakout. It could also realistically be that he included his now-concrete band in the writing process, which wasn’t the case previously, because he didn’t typically hold onto a band outside of touring.

As with any Destroyer album, though, its consistency does yield some positive results. You have some idea of what you’re going to get, and chances are good that someone who liked previous Destroyer albums will like Trouble in Dreams, as well. Just as he ordinarily does, Bejar dabbles in a variety of genres, whether it’s the simple folk of opener “Blue Flower/Blue Flame,” or the piano pop-driven “Rivers.” Like the music, his lyrics are more toned down than normal, but he’s still self-referential and fond of women’s names. It’s not entirely without its bizarre moments: the much-lauded “Shooting Rockets (From the Desk of Night’s Ape)” is the most expansive track. In comparison to the epics from Rubies, however, it’s considerably darker and not quite at full force.

Longtime Destroyer fans may see this as a return to the form of the earlier works. Those who were introduced to Destroyer through Rubies won’t be averse to Trouble in Dreams, but could find themselves longing for the excitement that album held. Either way, the bottom line remains the same: once a Destroyer fan, always a Destroyer fan.

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