Destroyer City of Daughters / Thief / Streethawk: A Seduction

For many people, their first exposure to Dan Bejar was through his involvement in the New Pornographers as the singer on the songs that didn't quite sound like the rest. But as Destroyer, he's created an even more intriguing body of work, the earliest part of which went widely unnoticed unless you happened to be really paying attention. His current label, Merge, has reissued albums two through four, which are the ones that helped build his mystique and acquire a cult following that has quite rightly grown with each subsequent record. While his debut hinted at what lay ahead, it took the follow-up, 1998's City Of Daughters, with its more realised arrangements, to flesh out his ideas. The complexity and density of the language that Bejar uses required more robust instrumentation to support it and although the songs often sound more like incomplete sketches due to their length, this is the start of the Destroyer most people are familiar with. There is still some inexperience on display, and even some uncharacteristic songs the drama a Destroyer song requires, but it was a necessary step. 2000's Thief was a huge jump forward in so many ways. It was almost overloaded with things to say, mostly concerning the music industry and Bejar's distaste for it. But his ability to disguise bitterness as pretty, articulate songs makes it tougher to notice the nuances. The original version was issued in mono ― something that was perhaps a statement in itself ― but this new stereo mix sounds glorious in comparison. It works especially well considering he employed a full band on every track, and it sounds like they understood exactly what his music needed. Thief is almost his first classic album, but unfortunately, falls a little flat during its second act. So very close though. Streethawk: A Seduction was a masterpiece when it was first released in 2001, and it has aged wonderfully, in that it's still the best album Bejar has been involved with. If Thief was his call to arms, Streethawk is his complete manifesto, laid bare for all to see. It continued many of the themes from its predecessor, although musically the songs are grander and more imposing. He's channelling Bowie at his most epic, but with a level of control that makes for a surprisingly accessible record. That said, it's hard to imagine him as part of a pop band like the New Pornographers, as he's so good at being wilfully obscure and challenging that none of these songs could ever be on anything but a Destroyer album. Everything about Streethawk is perfect and there is no reason not to own it. (Merge)