“You could follow a rose wherever it grows/You could fall in love in Times Square,” Dan Bejar, aka Destroyer sings on the track “Times Square.” His latest album, Poison Season, constantly references itself, both musically and lyrically, but matter where one track takes you, another always leads you back to perhaps the most well-known area of New York City, Times Square; The record has three songs that include it in their title. Most New Yorkers may associate the area with crowded trains and annoying tourists more than love, but Bejar somehow makes it seem romantic and sentimental.
Called “Rock’s Exiled King” by The Fader, this is the tenth studio album by Bejar, who also plays in The New Pornographers, but strays far from the indie rock genre in his solo project. Though Poison Season may seem like a harsh name for an album, it’s not reflected in the music. Songs are filled with sweeping (but never too sappy) strings and loose jazz saxophone. The whole album has a late-night/early dawn feel to it, recalling the 4AM epiphanies you get when you’re still clinging to your last bit of consciousness. This is especially true on the track “Dream Lover,” where he borrows the line “Here comes the sun.” But this isn’t the hopeful, cheery sun from the Beatles’ song- this sun is an interruption, signaling the end the night with a does of reality: “Oh shit, here comes the sun/Lovers on the run,” Bejar laments after an evening where “Haunted starlight gets in your eyes.” Euphoric, chaotic saxophone and a driving beat make it one of the album’s best tracks.
On “Bangkok,” the saxophones are joined by piano, giving the song the feeling of an after-hours jazz lounge. And on “Hell,” the bouncy beat begs you to snap along even as Bejar insists “It’s hell down here, it’s hell”(He also slips in a somewhat political line with “Every murderer voted out of office is sold down the river,” though he follows it up with something purely romantic).
Bejar’s voice has a whispery, spoken-word feel to it, and even during quieter moments, it’s easy to want to give his words your full attention. There are some serious moments on the album, but Bejar’s sense of humor manages to shine through. He uses the line “Bring out your dead,” which could possibly (I’d like to think this, anyway) be a nod to the Monty Python comedy The Holy Grail. And while the music video for “Girl In A Sling” is a beautiful, simple film where Bejar develops old photo negatives in what appears to be a childhood house, the video for “Times Square” is a light-hearted stop motion animation. Mossy creatures get high off of pipes and joints, a tree stump hunts for mushrooms, and a cartoon brain crawls along the forest floor.
This is definitely not the Times Square that exists at West 42nd Street and 7th Avenue, but it’s the Times Square that should.
Poison Season is out on August 28 via Merge Records. Check out the track “Dream Lover” below.