Destroyer
LABYRINTHITIS


3.8
excellent

Review

by Sunnyvale STAFF
March 26th, 2022 | 94 replies


Release Date: 03/25/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Dan Bejar strikes again

For the uninitiated, Destroyer is shockingly not a metal or hardcore band, but rather the long-running indie/art pop project of Dan Bejar, formerly of The New Pornographers. With thirteen albums released under the moniker, Destroyer has seen a fair amount of stylistic changes, but for the purposes of this review I’ll dwell heavily on the group’s latest era, the one beginning with the release of 2011’s widely acclaimed Kaputt. During this stretch, Destroyer’s music has leaned on 80’s-derived sophisti-pop, although the exact dimensions of the style have changed album to album.

It’s important to note that Dan Bejar’s lyrics (delivered in his curious singing/talking way) have always been an essential part of Destroyer’s appeal. His style is a nearly unique blend of highly-literate passages, sardonic wit, and non sequiturs, frequently leading to lines which dwell right on the thin line between brilliance and ridiculousness. Consider these two examples (both taken from 2017’s underrated record ken): “I can’t pay for this, all I’ve got is money” and “strike an empty pose, a pose is always empty”. However, Destroyer’s previous effort, 2020’s Have We Met, finally at times overstepped this invisible boundary (at least in this reviewer’s humble opinion), with “clickety click click, the music makes a musical sound” standing out as a particularly egregious example. It’s to Bejar’s great credit that Have We Met managed to still be quite great, indeed one of the best albums of 2020, despite these occasional missteps. Nonetheless, this made me wary that Destroyer was losing the plot, lacking the sense of balance that has always been so essential to the schtick. After all, Bejar’s lyrics have always been a tightrope act, tauntingly daring the listener to throw up their hands at the pretentiousness of what they’re hearing, before suddenly dropping some mocking hint which reveals that Bejar doesn’t take himself too seriously after all.

With Labyrinthitis, I find my fears at least partially justified. There are some moments which strike me as artsy in an insufferable way, like the spoken word section at the end of the otherwise great “June” or the baby noise sample (I think?) in the instrumental ambient title track. However, taken as a whole this is yet another inspired effort by Destroyer. It’s a record with essentially two modes, both of which coexist together well. First, there are shorter, upbeat tracks like “Suffer” and the quite catchy “It Takes A Thief”. Second, there are the long-winded, generally more subtle songs like opener “It’s In Your Heart Now” and the aforementioned “June”. The former can be described as “soothing”, which is not something I’d ever thought to characterize a Destroyer tune as before, encapsulating some of the adjusted focus of this record. While I’d readily identify all recent Destroyer albums as producing a particular atmosphere, Labyrinthitis is the only one of the bunch to be clearly, in my view, atmospheric. The soundscapes are lush, awash with synths, guitar, and drums, regardless of whether it’s one of the dreamy and expansive slower numbers or the more concise and high-energy tunes (shout out to “Tintoretto, It’s For You”, which is as sonically aggressive as any recent Destroyer song). All told, this is a satisfyingly engaging listen, and as such it’s quite easy to forgive a few perceived missteps.

Labyrinthitis is a tough nut to crack, or to be more precise, it’s an album for which multiple narratives can be true at once, despite being somewhat conflicting. On the one hand, this is a record which sees Destroyer recalibrate their formula, quite successfully, to avoid any potential staleness in the fifth incarnation of their recent run. As such, it feels like a record that most, if not all, music fans with any interest in Destroyer could enjoy. On the flip side, this album also continues the trend that Have We Met began, accentuating Bejar’s idiosyncrasies in a more pronounced way than before. This might well turn off a certain subset of listeners, particularly those who were ushered in by the smooth and sleek accessibility of Kaputt. There’s little doubt, though, that those who are patient with this record will be rewarded, as that’s nearly always the case with Destroyer albums. After all the analysis, that’s what Labyrinthitis really is: Destroyer doing what Destroyer does. Or to rephrase in a proper Bejar-ism: “I piss on the floorboards, the whole world’s a stage”.



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user ratings (77)
3.6
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
March 26th 2022


4071 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Review number 75! For one of my favorite artists, not entirely sure how this album will hold up outside of devoted Destroyer fans, but only one way to find out...

theBoneyKing
March 26th 2022


22616 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Niiiice, only jammed this once so far but really enjoyed.

Digging: Dawes - Misadventures of Doomscroller

markjamie
March 26th 2022


197 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Despite seeing Kaputt in multiple users' lists of albums that are better than sex, I never made time to listen to Destroyer before now.

I am an idiot. This is ace.

So here's one new fan seduced by the album at least...

tyman128
Contributing Reviewer
March 27th 2022


3528 Comments


fantastic review Sunny!! gonna have to give this one a spin soon... guess I should also finally check Destroyer's discog out too

Digging: Domestic Terminal - All The Stories Left To Tell

markjamie
March 27th 2022


197 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah... agree about the review quality. And as a newbie - where should I head after Kaputt?

theBoneyKing
March 27th 2022


22616 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Glad a newbie could dig this! It’s hard for me to imagine going in without all the mythology associated with this project, but sometimes going in blind is nice



As for where to go after Kaputt, if you really want more synthy style stuff than stick with the recent stuff, but if you want to do the full deep dive go back to Streethawk or Rubies. Streethawk is very Bowie/glam styled but still with that unique Dan Bejar touch, Rubies is a bit more aligned with standard 00s indie rock but has some of Bejar’s best sprawling songwriting.

markjamie
March 27th 2022


197 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Mythology? Now I am even more interested...

And thanks.

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
March 27th 2022


4071 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Thanks tyman!



@markjamie, glad to hear you're enjoying this! All the albums between Kaputt and this one should be on your radar, as well as the ones Boney mentioned. Lots of good stuff!

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 27th 2022


49281 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

was less than impressed with this, though there's nothing glaringly awful. the goof tracks and June did it for me - everything else is gonna take a generous second chance

review is a nice newbie's intro to Dan Bejar, which threw me at first bc i assumed his schtick was old hat to everyone and anyone by now, but good to see people itt making that discovery

now check Kaputt, it kaputs this to to shame

DocSportello
March 27th 2022


2186 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is a great album but



Kaputt is a top 5 personal album for me, just flawless

markjamie
March 27th 2022


197 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I have a 15000km drive around Australia coming up in April/May - seems like a perfect opportunity to get better acquainted with Bejar.

Have listened to Kaputt a few times in the last 2 days and it is great - and my understanding from reading the various threads is that is goes even harder after time.

Lots of listening to look forward to then. Thanks all.

InfernalDeity
March 27th 2022


197 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Congrats on 75! This review really peeked my interest and i'm giving it a spin now and really enjoying what im hearing so far.

Digging: Venator (AT) - Echoes from the Gutter

InfernalDeity
March 27th 2022


197 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Alright, June is an absolute banger.

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
March 27th 2022


17429 Comments


This album's artwork says I should probably like this.

DoofDoof
March 27th 2022


11904 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

His summer album, grew on me a lot over my first seven or eight listens.

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
March 27th 2022


17429 Comments


That's a doofy 5

DoofDoof
March 27th 2022


11904 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

My third 5 rating of '22...might explain why I was initially reluctant to also 5 this one

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
March 27th 2022


4071 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Thanks @InfernalDeity!



Doof, someone's gotta pick up the 5'ing slack since Sowing's not rating things lately. Your other two 5s this year are my top two for the year so far, don't find this one on that level but it may well grow on me.

Dylan620
March 27th 2022


5797 Comments


2022 is shaping up to be one of the great years in music for sure.

Great review Sunnyvale

Digging: Black Midi - Hellfire

DoofDoof
March 27th 2022


11904 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Sunnyvale, impeccable taste 👅



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