Review Summary: Rubies presents Dan Bejar at his most brave, gleeful, and confident. He cycles through Bowie, Dylan, and Malkmus, much like a comedian impersonates America's favorite talking heads--in a good way!
In the second verse of Destroyer’s “European Oils”, Dan Bejar sings, “I was good with names. I had a way with faces. I was the dominant theme in a number of places. And you, you didn’t mind mixing your European oils for a still life.” Dan Bejar, who puts out music under the moniker of “Destroyer”, is a music lover who makes music for music lovers. Every song he writes never fails to acknowledge the giants that he is standing upon to portray modern clichés of war, loss, and love—poking fun at his obvious Dylan influence, citing famous Smiths lyrics, and, all the while, telling his own unique story and viewpoint. In “European Oils”, Destroyer makes a proposal of how America’s artistic history was as tied to theft and exploitation as slavery, but has formed its own deep mythos over time. It’s a subject that many art historians try their best to avoid, as it’s hard to be proud of a failure to have an artistic identity while Europe was putting out classical masterpieces that remain as revered in the 16th century as in the current one. It’s a song that offers a reveling and somewhat controversial viewpoint, but is handled with the poetic grace and romanticism that only the best pop songs possess. Dan Bejar clearly has a love of where his influences come from, because he is as in debt to them as he is to the wood of his guitar.
Rubies presents Dan Bejar at his most brave, gleeful, and confident. He cycles through Bowie, Dylan, and Malkmus, much like a comedian impersonates America's favorite talking heads. A nice trick that is enjoyable in itself but its all in order to get to the punchline, which Destoryer had no shortage of during the 2005 recording sessions of these tracks. Every song boasts its own remarkable wordplay, sometimes feeling like an indie rock Jumble, bittersweet hallmark card, and always an open invitation to the romantic art of singing about yourself. As indulgent as indulgence gets, but these are the sort of memorable pop songs you can sing to yourself and become a part of. Every little precious "la la la" and "oh da oh" sounds like the pop McCartney dreamed of at night--a land where we could sing like we kiss without it becoming some glossed over Coke Cola background nonsense.
"Rubies" is the sort of rare indulgence that indie pop rarely delivers so well--its in fact the only song that will remain as ambitious as it is enjoyable on its 10th listening. "Cast myself towards infinity", Dan Bejar sings before going on a musical journey to the place where such gleeful indie-pop rarely goes: the 10 minute mark. Trash cans clank, guitars swell, and Dan strips down to his bare voice and acoustic to prove that it's really him at the center that is giving us butterflies. I don't know what is more miraculous, the sound of the acoustic trying its hardest to fill up the room at 7:12 or Bejar's fair-weathered sweet-nothings that carry the song to its eventual but all too soon end. It's enough to start a new genre labeled "post-pop" if there were any other artists talented enough to follow, rather then sandwich Sufjan's sack of trumpets beside it. You can go ahead and write an album for every shanty town, but no one will ever craft 9 pop songs as sublime as these.
Should we continue with the prog-cabaret beauty of "Looters' Foolies", psych-pop gone good masterpiece of "3000 Flowers", or make a top 25 list of why "European Oils" and "Your Blood" might be the best pop songs ever to be written. You can apply all sorts of hyperbole to Rubies because they can never phase the power that the singer/songwriter title brings. Many indie juggernauts have cut their teeth to a career of evolving sounds and trend following, but Dan Bejar sits with his legs crossed, pick in his Canadian beard, and acoustic in his lap. He can make you cry to "Watercolors in the Ocean" and almost tell you its all a joke on album ender "Sick Priest Learns to Live Forever". It leaves Rubies sounding like the Manifest Destiny of modern indie-pop. Moving West because the East is just getting too familiar and dull. And, maybe, the Natives have some other inventions for us to tinker with a hopeful future implication in American society. Improvement becoming some sort of redemption for theft.