Destroyer leader Daniel Bejar is probably the best lyricist in rock, but he's never seemed particularly interested in making that known. Destroyer has gathered a devout audience behind albums that survey a world of secondhand bookmarks and grimly lit bohemian dreams, but no version of the story can sidestep Bejar's appetite for self-sabotage—from his detachment from The New Pornographers (for whom he writes and sings from the sidelines with a lurker's fancy) to aggressively beguiling works like 2004's MIDI-synth symphony Your Blues, an album that introduced talk of Brechtian distancing techniques to the indie-rock discourse.
Unpacking simultaneously mad and mannered gestures has always been part of the Destroyer experience, but the new Destroyer's Rubies doesn't make an interest in such things a mandate. It's an easy Destroyer album to love, approachable as both a collection of strong rock songs and a literary exercise in just how far songs can stretch to make sense of the words within them. Musically and thematically, the album revisits the compact structures of 2001's Streethawk: A Seduction, which cast a likewise leering eye at characters who live inside records and paintings while trying, futilely, to outrun the hard world outside. It's a real condition in Bejar's songs, which simultaneously celebrate and mock girls "known to appreciate the elegance of an empty room" ("Rubies") and boys in bands "who, much like churchgoers, fuck themselves… up" ("3000 Flowers").
Elaborate grammatical constructions abound in the mind and mouth of Bejar, whose sneering voice makes phrases like "hitherto unknown" sound not only natural, but also defiant and cool. It's a voice that finds the nihilism in romance and the romance in nihilism, without wanting to come down on either side: As Bejar sings at one point, "Is it always one thing or the other with you?"