Get local news delivered straight to your phone

We can't make City Paper without you

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Dan Bejar has made a career of delivering cryptic lyrics in a peculiar sort of speak-warble. The frontman of the Vancouver-based Destroyer has shown his fondness for the high notes on four shrieker-songwriter albums over the past six years. On last year’s Streethawk: A Seduction, Bejar, backed by straight-ahead strummy guitars and synths played one finger at a time, pleaded and cajoled his way through tracks such as “Beggars Might Ride” and “The Sublimation Hour,” proving that it’s possible to create memorable melodies with his unorthodox bray. The biggest surprise on the new This Night is that Destroyer’s once-spare orchestrations and Bejar’s twice-assertive caterwauls have now reached similar levels of strangeness. Guitar feedback crackles between the coos of seemingly strung-out doo-wop backup singers. Ginormously overblown keyboards crash over spoken-word soliloquies. It’s the rare track that sticks with the same instrumentation for more than a few bars. “Holly Going Lightly” careens from ominous guitar noise and off-kilter drumming to a simple string-snare combo to cymbals crashing beside six-string wankery and back again in a free-form five minutes. “The Chosen Few” gallops along like the score to a spaghetti-western duel, Bejar’s overdubbed warbling alternately prodding the left and right ear with enigmatic matter-of-factness: “The Governor’s wasted in the garden/Clawing his eyes out—he’s insane/So I’ll be your map/And I’ll be your mirror/And maybe someday I’ll see you building dungeons in the rain.” And in “Makin’ Angels,” a distortion-heavy electric guitar swells to follow Bejar’s incantation “Rock ‘n’ roll’s not through (yet)/I’m sewing wings on this thing” before receding to make way for a sing-along chorus of badda-badda-bahs and chiming toy piano. Not through yet, indeed: Despite some less-than-successful experiments—most memorably the futuristically crappy spaceship sound effects on “Modern Painters”—This Night is relatively cloudless. A full moon rises high in the sky, Bejar’s voice crackles like a bug zapper, and the light is transfixing. —Josh Levin