Destroyer's Kaputt will almost surely be on my personal top 10 year-end list. Structurally and musically, the recent reissue of Destroyer's Ideas For Songs feels like a near-polar opposite to the grandiose and intricate arrangements present on nearly all of Kaputt. Strangely enough, the Ideas For Songs project that was much more of a literal rough draft than a fully fleshed out album provides a much stronger case for the reasons I fell in love with Dan Bejar's music in the first place.
This "album" was born out of a 1997 project in which Canadian label Granted Passage asked Bejar for a couple of songs to use in a cassette compilation. He sent them several options, assuming they'd narrow it down on their own. The result was this plethora of brief and sparse glimmers of Bejar's unique and potent narratives. They logically had a very homemade feel to them, with next to nothing going on besides a faint guitar and his voice. The vocals, however, are much more prominent than most tracks that exhibit such a bedroom feel. Against these skeletal backdrops, Bejar's mesmerizing voice and complex lyrics have more room to shine than ever. Tracks like the enchanting "You Don't Need To Know" feel fully developed and complete, as Bejar paints the story of a troubled but not altogether unappealing relationship before closing on the apt line Films are forgettable, songs aren't. There are also tracks like "Leaving London" or "Forget America," clocking in at just more than a minute apiece, that feel much more like Bejar's worthwhile notebook scribblings.
The other thing that became readily apparent about Bejar and his Destroyer project upon hearing such a bare bones set of songs is just how far it has come since. Without this reminder, it's easy to forget what a singular and basic vision Destroyer was in its early stages. This isn't to say Destroyer is no longer Bejar's uniqu vision, but the end result is now the work of so many collaborators. In the days of Streethawk it was largely just Bejar on stage trying as best he could to recreate the unique sounds he was making at home. Touring around Kaputt, his stage show has become downright orchestral to fully bring out the elaborate instrumentation and arrangements. It's a sight to behold and, as an overall piece of art and presentation, a hugely impressive progression from the time Ideas For Songs was created. Yet there remains a certain endearing quality to the bare simplicity of Granted Passage. This is about the greatest stature a reissue can achieve: paying fine tribute to what makes an artist great while also displaying the true progression that has taken place since.