Destroyer’s ‘ken’ is a relaxing yet elegant journey

‘ken’ offers refreshing ‘80s post-punk complexion among monotonous indie rock

ae-DestroyerKenCover-CourtesyMergeRecords

Riddled with ambiguous allusions and wordplays, the lyricism in “ken” seems to be an exhaustive train of thought deep inside Bejar’s mind.

Courtesy Merge Records

Just five months after his previous group The New Pornographers released their own comeback album, Dan Bejar, the mastermind behind Destroyer, has come out with another extravagant and captivating record titled “ken.” Under the name Destroyer, Bejar hasn't put out one bad album in the past 20 years. His music is filled with atmospheric synths, a heap of pleasurable instrumentation, and rambling lyrics that leave the listener with a crossover of ‘80s post-punk and modern day indie rock. This mixture is always enjoyable, and “ken” continues to prove that Bejar is one of the most talented musicians of our time.

The album’s title doesn't refer to a person, but rather to the original title of Suede’s classic romantic ballad "The Wild Ones." Bejar didn't offer much in the way of explanation for the album’s title other than that the 1994 song comes from a time "when music first really came at me like a sickness." While the album doesn’t sound at all like Suede, the music is saturated with the same sort of reminiscent spirits of escape and mystery. “ken” is a warm and soothing sound that is backed with Bejar’s oddly comforting vocals. 

In a time where the indie rock genre seems to be so heavily dominated by the monotonous jangle pop, “ken” brings on a post-punk complexion that is innovative. The album’s opener “Sky’s Grey” follows the same format of the previous album’s intro track “Times Square,” but condenses it into a more appreciable version filled with obtuse lyrics and downplayed strings. 

As always, Bejar plays with his words here like no other. “I’ve been working on the new Oliver Twist,” he repeats, emphasizing individual words each time round. It’s a charming record that can easily be listened to on repeat. The album is heavily layered with synthesizers and prog guitars to really make an ‘80s atmospherical experience.

It’s the obscurity of the album’s composition that makes Destroyer’s music seem like such a luxury. This album is an enchanting trek to journey through, especially with Bejar being more representative than ever before. There are bizarre horns, false fades and plenty of unexpectedly short tracks — not a single one exceeds five minutes. 

Riddled with ambiguous allusions and wordplays, the lyricism in “ken” seems to be an exhaustive train of thought deep inside Bejar’s mind. The true meaning behind the album is quite difficult to decipher. Perhaps Bejar suggests that it’s up to the listener to decide in "A Light Travels Down the Catwalk" when he sings “Strike an empty pose / A pose ain’t always empty.” Initially, “ken” may give the impression of simple music to be played while wine-tasting, but it truly resembles an open self-reflection of Bejar’s life that is quite delightful.

A first time listener of the band may find “ken” to be shallow and somewhat of a boring listen. Initially, it is not uncommon to find Destroyer’s music to sound like elevator tunes. But the reality is that with more listens, the album’s coherence and fluency increases significantly. The band’s 12th record is nothing new, but it offers a consistency like no other in a lengthy discography, which is certainly a recognizable feat in modern music. “ken” may not be the triumph that “Kaputt” was, nor is it the breath of fresh air “Destroyer's Rubies” represented, but it certainly resembles an appreciable work of art, further illustrating the magnificence of Dan Bejar’s extensive career. 

related stories