“Chinatown” sashays unexpectedly across your speakers with a jazzy spring in its step, complete with ’60s-pop female harmonies and not just a sax solo but a trumpet solo too. This is an altogether smoother and more digestible environment than we have previously found Dan Bejar wandering around in; but if he has outwardly de-quirk-ified himself here, there’s something charming in the effort, and knowing, too. Because maybe the quirkiest thing of all in this freaked-out shoutfest of a world is to mellow out a bit.
Besides, once you get used to the chill groove, listen to Bejar and you’ll see he still sounds semi-crazy and mysterious, he’s just not flaunting it the way previous Destroyer songs might have. Less can be more—steering clear of his more obvious vocal kinks still allows him to show off his sweet, torn-sweater voice; his phrasing remains satisfyingly idiosyncratic and the lyrics as cryptic as ever. Unless it’s actually just about the movie Chinatown (“Forget it, Jake; it’s Chinatown”), in which case it’s still a little cryptic because he just can’t help himself. Oh and meanwhile, check out the way he manages to blend electronics and horns here. Except for those horns, just about everything else sounds non-organic. It’s spookily effective.
Bejar, from Vancouver, has been recording as Destroyer since back in 1996; he is also a founding member of the New Pornographers, and in 2006 became part of a second indie side-project/”super-group,” Swan Lake. “Chinatown” will be found on the album Kaputt, due out on Merge Records next month. MP3 via Merge. Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the head’s up.