Dan Bejar must have gotten used to the full-band sound he explored on Destroyer's last album, 2006's Destroyer's Rubies and the touring that followed, because Trouble in Dreams presents an even more completely realized version of that (all but Scott Morgan returned from Rubies), full of strings and drums and horns, changing time signatures and soaring background vocals. Bejar has also come to realize, at least some of the time, that a good, strong melody can help bring together what otherwise could be an ornately shambolic mess of nonsensical allusions and phrases and chord changes. Take the first single, "Foam Hands," for example. The lyrics are as abstract as always ("I didn't know what time it was at all/Foam Hands"), but because the instrumental and vocal lines return, setting it up in more traditional pop structure, the song is more digestible, and honestly, more enjoyable because of it. That's not to say that the elements that have won Destroyer so many fans are lacking. Bejar's faux-accented voice is in fine form here (although he gets slightly carried away in "Plaza Trinidad," where he can't seem to decide if he's channeling Bowie or Dylan, and sounds a bit silly because of it), witty and romantic and complicated. "Shooting Rockets" is in fact a cleaner remake of the Swan Lake song, dramatic and eloquent, "The State" is an energetic, blues-rock-influenced tune that allows Bejar the space to even yell a bit, and the closer, "Libby's First Sunrise" plays on the more straightforward adult rock sound that permeates Trouble in Dreams, turning it into something quite lovely, what Jeremy Enigk meant to do on World Waits but couldn't quite pull off. There are some missteps here: besides the aforementioned "Plaza Trinidad," the title phrase from "Introducing Angels" is half-whispered just a little too poignantly, the individual syllables accented just a little too clearly, and make Bejar sound like he's trying much too hard to be emotional and romantic, and "Leopard of Honor" crosses into the Burt Bacharach/yacht-rock territory without much uniqueness or apology. But on Trouble in Dreams, Bejar and Destroyer have also shown that they can continue to write both the literate, complex songs they and their audience love and expand and explore new melodic territory successfully.
Trouble in Dreams Review
by Marisa Brown