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. Bejar’s whimsical lyrics, non sequiturs, and callbacks to famous hooks of yesteryear stand proud against his dreamy chords. Given the singer-songwriter’s predilection for toying with expectations, it shouldn’t be too surprising that he chose to release a gem of a covers album that’s sung entirely in Spanish. Dios mio, man.
Prior to Five Spanish Songs‘ release, Bejar shared that his motives stemmed from an impatience with the melodic shortcomings of the English language. This impulse was also bolstered by a decades long admiration of the Seville-based group Sr. Chinarro — led by Antonio Luque, the band’s only permanent member — who inspired him to think fuera de la caja (or, outside the box), despite being only half fluent en español. But, you wouldn’t guess that by listening. Bejar’s sweet vocals soar to a place of tranquility and familiarity on stand out song “Bye Bye”. The track’s instrumentation harks back to the mesmerizing softness of “Painter in Your Pocket” off of 2006’s Destroyer’s Rubies, while the sonic groove that pulses beneath “Babieca” would feel right at home on 2011’s Top Star-rated Kaputt.
Five Spanish Songs is a worthy, albeit unusual choice for an artist who is praised for his unique take on songwriting and lyrics. That said, each tune fits well within the larger collection of Destroyer’s recorded history. Even though the lyrics are culled from Luque, they feel perfectly natural erupting out of Bejar, and even resemble the poetic imagery found in his own work. “Del montón”, for instance, finds Bejar crooning, “I looked at the castle/ And I thought of Franz Kafka/ And wrote a song that ended up in a tavern.” Non-Spanish speakers will miss out on some of this subtle playfulness, but the pleasing melodies, warm guitar work, and fanciful ephemera transcend the need to comprehend the meaning behind every single word. It’s simply a beautiful little record that anyone can enjoy. Five Spanish Songs adds to the legacy of indie pop’s most vexing minstrel, and, at the end of the day, lo único que importa.
Essential Tracks: “Bye Bye”, “Babieca”, and “Del montón”