Album Review: Five Spanish Songs [EP] by Destroyer
Very Good, Based on 13 Critics
New Musical Express (NME) - 80 Based on rating 4/5
“The English language seemed spent, despicable, not easily singable,” Destroyer’s Dan Bejar said when he announced ‘Five Spanish Songs’, an EP of cuts written by Antonio Luque of Seville band Sr Chinarro. Bejar has a wondrous lyrical facility that it’d be a shame for him to forsake – but he’s also possessed of a beguiling, breezy touch that acts as a musical lingua franca here. These five songs trade the pastel-hued soft-rock of ‘Kaputt’ for burnished acoustic guitar jams: ‘Babieca’ whirls on frantic hand percussion; the dry jauntiness of ‘Del Monton’ feels made to soundtrack a Richard Linklater film; and ‘El Rito’ makes Primal Scream’s ‘Rocks’ into something good-natured and communal.Laura Snapes .
On Destroyer's new Spanish-language EP, Dan Bejar reimagines five songs by Antonio Luque of the indie band Sr. Chinarro, taking them beyond their acoustic alt-rock origins. Standout El Rito's shiny indie pop treatment makes it one of Bejar's more energized recordings to date. The other tunes are equally appealing and cosmopolitan.
Dan Bejar’s songbook is the sum of clearly discernible influences: the rich characterizations and narrative ramble of Dylan; the obtuse wordplay and meta-musical musings of Stephen Malkmus; the excitable affectation of a young David Bowie. And yet, it’s not an exaggeration to say that no one sounds quite like Dan Bejar—in classic sum-is-greater-than-the-parts fashion, he’s emerged over the past 15 years as one of indie-rock’s most unique and idiosyncratic voices, forging an identity so distinct, he’s even spawned dopplegängers and Twitter lyric generators. His latest release offers further edification, by proving that Bejar's peculiar presence is unmistakble even when he’s singing someone else’s songs in a foreign tongue.
It’s ridiculous on the face of it: Destroyer recorded an EP of songs in Spanish because of leader Dan Bejar’s conviction that “the English language seemed spent.” That’s what he writes in the press notes, at least. Yet even if you’re holding fast to a tongue that Bejar insists is “good for business transactions, but that’s about it,” and even if you don’t speak Spanish (the only other language Bejar knows), there’s plenty to love about Five Spanish Songs. All five are covers of tunes by Spanish indie-rockers Sr.
Dan Bejar (Destroyer) is a bit of a mystery. The bushy haired Vancouverite is the member of The New Pornographers who doesn’t seem to give a care, often meandering offstage to placate a nic-fit, or scaling back his audience interactions to a polite minimum while channeling a Hunky Dory era David Bowie. But, like all worthy troubadours, he has the uncanny ability to enthrall listeners with fantastic storytelling and musical grace.
Dan Bejar shows a little love for an influence and takes a break from English with a handful of covers, deeming the English language "spent, despicable, not easily singable" and "good for business transactions, but that's about it." We could all stand a break, honestly—let an adjective count on this review alone serve as proof. Ample proof. .
Dan Bejar has never been a predictable man. A serial genre-chameleon, under his Destroyer guise, he has churned out everything from acoustic indie to ambient experimental electronica. And after the British accented, “Sounds, Smash Hits, Melody Maker” name-dropping of Eighties soft rock homage Kaputt, it’s no surprise to see Bejar don another genre, persona, and even a new language.
With ‘Kapputt’, Dan Bejar’s Destroyer project grew wings and flapped its way to some balmy cove to catch the last rays of another day in paradise. His current Balearic-sophistipop incarnation has lazily followed the swallows and lolloped of to the mainland with this sumptuous five track EP that’s as melodious as its predecessor but, semi-sadly, not as memorable, not quite as fulfilling, nor as enriching. Perhaps this kind of direct record-to-record comparison doesn’t do us any favours as listeners (especially since the songs weren’t written by Bejar himself but Spanish songwriter Antonio Luque) but as ‘Five Spanish Songs’ is cut from very similar cloth as ‘Kaputt’ - murmured melodies wink at familiarity and classicism before louchely shrugging them off - it’s hard not to do it.
Dan Bejar, the walking, talking, and singing definition of following your own muse, spent the last couple of years lugging around a full horn section in support of his slick and soulful 2011 sophisti-pop outing Kaputt, so it should come as no surprise that anything goes (musically) on this stopgap EP of covers of songs composed by Antonio Luque, the frontman for goth-tinged Spanish alt-rock outfit Sr. Chinarro. Not surprisingly, Luque, a verbose and enigmatic lyricist, is the perfect match for Bejar (they're also both hirsute rock & roll outliers), and the five-track collection requires little in the way of translation, as Bejar's alternately manic and laconic delivery somehow manages to keep breezy, Rioja-sipping confections like "Maria de las Nieves," buffed-up AOR rockers like "El Rito," and disco ball-lit fever dreams like "Babieca" in the same room together, despite their frequent stylistic attempts at escape.
It's hard to decide exactly where Five Spanish Songs fits into the Destroyer catalogue. It hardly feels like a natural progression from the smoothness of its predecessor, Kaputt, yet it shares much of its romanticism, even if it's masked behind another language. The album also harkens back to the earlier days of his work, when arrangements were more traditional and sparse.As the title suggests, the EP is a collection of five songs performed in Spanish.
On Five Spanish Songs, Daniel Bejar pulls off the rare trick of covering five songs by a single author – the Spaniard Antonio Luque, who records as Sr. Chinarro – while sounding precisely like Daniel Bejar. That’s a feat for any performer, but more so for Bejar, who is, by nature, slippery and hard to define. He is a midi-mastering solo symphonist one minute (Your Blues), a full-band rocker the next (Destroyer’s Rubies), and most recently a lite-fm Gerry Rafferty devotee (Kaputt, which is a good name for it).
This is Destroyer‘s first covers collection. Which is odd, really, since the verbose Destroyer main man, Dan Bejar, would seem out of place trying to fit into the confines of a song any less intense (or shorter) than his epics like “Rubies” or “Kaputt.” If he’s momentarily weary of working up his own tunes, so too has the English language lost its lustre for Bejar. Enter Five Spanish Songs, a simple and accurately titled series of Spanish songs originally written by Antonio Luque, a musician from Seville, Spain, who records as the cult favorite, Mr.
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