On Five Spanish Songs, Daniel Bejar pulls off the rare trick of covering five songs by a single author – the Spaniard Antonio Luque, who records as Sr. Chinarro – while sounding precisely like Daniel Bejar.
That’s a feat for any performer, but more so for Bejar, who is, by nature, slippery and hard to define. He is a midi-mastering solo symphonist one minute (Your Blues), a full-band rocker the next (Destroyer’s Rubies), and most recently a lite-fm Gerry Rafferty devotee (Kaputt, which is a good name for it). The main connector, for me, has always been his skill as a writer. His words have a sinuous-ness that glide effortlessly until they land in a tangle, dense, elegant, impacted with inference. He’s just too good at the oblique image, the tossed off bon mot, the line-drawn portraits of strangers in a crowd to be considered apart from the words. The music just wraps around them.
And yet, here, though he wrote none of these songs, not glancing, caressing “Bye, Bye,” not breeze-y, lounge sophisticated “Babieca,” not blistery, guitar-riffing “El Rito” (the one they’ll slip you on soundcloud as a teaser, even though it sounds nothing like the rest), they sound very much like knowing, teasing, too-smart-to-pin-down Destroyer. They are beautifully sung, sparely filled out in diverse ways and charged with cerebral tension. I went back to Spotify to hear these tunes in their original version and found that, really, none of them sounded a bit like Destroyer. He did all that by himself.
So if you listen to Destroyer primarily for his fey touch with lyrics, his ways of weaving mystery into elliptical images, his slicked-back auteur vision of post-modern gender interactions, you might give Five Spanish Songs a miss. Or you might not. He’s brought the whole Destroyer vibe to an entirely non-Destroyer set of material, and you can feel the waves of cool detachment, of stylish artifice wafting off these tunes just the same as always.
DOWNLOAD: “El Rito” “Bye Bye”