Review: Destroyer crafts an atmospheric dream on ‘Ken’

Story by Hayden Goodridge / Contributing Writer

The backdrop of Destroyer’s “Ken” is one of refined bliss, just relaxed enough to lull a listener into the ethereal space it creates. Synthesizers breathe and come alive against a carefree beat, and in the distance an errant saxophone can be heard effortlessly riffing away.

Amidst this world of organic and synthetic blends of instrumentation is Dan Bejar, suave and restrained as he swirls his drink in-hand. This is the area that the Swedish frontman seems to occupy when navigating his way through Destroyer’s dreamy tracks, and on the group’s 12th album, Bejar’s charisma carries listeners through the band’s new sonic territories.

In the past, Destroyer’s music has carried an unmistakable identity of elaborately crafted tracks, layered with smooth instrumentation to give the effect of immense landscapes. “Ken,” however, finds the group taking a different approach with a noticeable sparseness from song to song. Along with the album’s relatively shorter runtime, the songs themselves convey a more straightforward impact, focusing less on sonic density than they do minimalist concepts.

“Saw You at the Hospital” features only a lightly strummed guitar and ambient piano for the majority of the song, with subtle electronic elements weaving in and out. This restraint has the effect of opening a song up to a spacey quality, which further emphasizes the personality of Bejar’s presence within.  

It’s in this airy landscape that Bejar expresses his poetic observations in a lethargic half-sung timbre, often just slightly louder than a whisper. He narrates his way through the album’s opening track, “Sky’s Grey,” with playfully repeated lines, “Bombs in the city, plays in the sticks,” and as the song grows in energy, he floats over its dreary outro with, “I’ve been working on the new Oliver Twist.”

With such a vocal quality, Bejar’s tongue-in-cheek criticisms on life are presented with poise and serenity. As he sings “Vancouver’s got a new Caligula, hey that’s cool” on “Sometimes in the World,” he gives off an impression of calm indifference in the face of calamity.

When dreaming, we often seem to lose the ability to discern reality from the mind’s fabrication, as absurd events are willingly accepted as truth. This sort of circumstance is conveyed by Dan Bejar as his lyrical mind wanders from one destitute vignette of a song to another on “Ken.” He mumbles, “Stay lost, its an illusion / Being alone’s an illusion,” on the anthemic “Stay Lost” as advice to embrace the blissful introversion that sometimes seeps into waking life.

After all, this subliminal state has allowed Destroyer to envision such a melodious dream of an album.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Tayhlor Stephenson, email

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