Trouble In Dreams is Dan Bejar’s ninth release under the Destroyer name, yet despite such prolific output, this one finds him amid a flurry of productivity, returning to work with New Pornographers as well as an upcoming release from his project with his main lady Sydney Vermont called Hello Blue Roses (she painted the hot pirate girl cover art for Trouble, too).
Quizzically enough, the opening track here is titled ‘Blue Flower/Blue Flame’ (a reference to his other band?). The song sees Bejar singing a love ode amid mazes of negation: “I tell you what I mean by that/Maybe not in seconds flat, maybe never,” with just a lazy strum, a recurring, Felt-worthy guitar melody and, smack in the middle, a piano solo.
Those awaiting a great shift in Bejar’s career can pound sand. He’s still singing of places, magic, nature, teeth gnashing, women’s names, and, of course, his own songwriting. It ain’t broke, you know? An argument could be made that there’s enough Destroyer to go around already, but we should count ourselves lucky that one of the best lyricists of the last 20 years hasn’t yet burnt out or showed signs of slowing.
By the second track it’s clear that what Bejar has brought to freshen the recipe is the feel of his live show, as most of the album was recorded live in the studio, with an urgency that’s frankly refreshing given his tendency toward baroque embellishment (last outing Destroyer’s Rubies betrayed a bit too much such studio noodling). At the same time, there is fullness to the recordings here, a roundness that might irk longtime fans of Bejar’s delicacy. For example, ‘My Favorite Year’ builds with positively Eno-ish atmosphere (and in a good way, which is no faint praise), into something that would be rousing even if Bejar’s warble couldn’t stir the dead.
Yet ‘Leopard of Honor,’ in addition to having the best title on the album, harkens back to Bejar’s most distinctive work (Streethawk: A Seduction being the prime example), treading lightly and constructing gauzy atmosphere, only to blast through still-setting walls with strident piano and a triumphal chorus of “Remove that wretched writing from the wall!” resolving itself in sweet guitar lines and the raspy moan of an organ. Makes you hope he’ll stay busy.