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EP Review: Destroyer – Five Spanish Songs EP

I don’t speak a word of Spanish. To be honest I don’t speak a word of anything other than English (unless you count American, Canadian, Australian…), something of which I’m ashamed. But I’m very proud of my love for Destroyer, which is constantly rewarded with excellent music. As the title of Dan Bejar’s new EP suggests, there isn’t any English sung here, but fans will find plenty to adore regardless.

Bejar isn’t singing in his native tongue, no. And he’s not actually singing his own songs either – these are all covers of tracks by Antonio Luque’s St. Chinarro – but the sound is unmistakably Destroyer. Bejar and Luque clearly share similar muses (The Cure, Leonard Cohen’s suit wearing, banana-eating days), so much so that I wouldn’t have a problem believing these were Destroyer originals if they were sung in English.

The little bits of narrative I’ve been able to figure out have set my mind racing. The title of the EP’s opener ‘Maria De Las Neives’ translates as “Maria of The Snow”, a character I’d love to hear Bejar take on all sorts of adventures, especially when the soundtrack is this melodically sumptuous. The mention of Franz Kafka amidst the almost skiffle-like jauntiness of ‘Del Monton’ (aka “The Pile”) is similarly intriguing, but you don’t need any linguistic skills to enjoy the infinitely hummable romp of ‘El Rito’ (aka “The Rite”); transformed from a contemplative yet cheerful folk turn in its St. Chinarro incarnation in to a glam rock stomper in the hands of Bejar, it’s the highlight of this all too brief record.

Of course, these are neither his lyrics nor his melodies, but try telling me the Balearic bounce of ‘Babieca’ doesn’t sound like an off cut from the Kaputt sessions and I’ll call you a lying scumbag. The only number here that comes across as even a little un-Bejarian is the closing ‘Bye Bye’; a quite direct lullaby of a tune, I struggle to imagine him writing something this straightforward (which has me thinking the lyrics probably dabble in the seriously sinister).

The bad news? Bejar is taking all of 2014 off. The good news? It’s to make a new Destroyer album. So I’m taking a Spanish to English dictionary and a copy of Five Spanish Songs and going in to hibernation till 2015. G’night.

- Thomas Hannan

Five Spanish Songs is now on Merge Records and you can buy it here

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