by Jack Ognibene
Accomplished Canadian sophisti-pop group Destroyer returns this year with their new release LABYRINTHITIS, which sees the group flexing some of its creative muscles again. After the standout Kaputt was released in 2011 to critical acclaim, most of the 2010s for Destroyer were marked with mediocre to slightly above average output. This was sad to see, considering their status and consistent creativity throughout the 2000s. However, with this release, it seems as though they’ve managed to shake off their artistic rut, and have managed to incorporate some really great songwriting quirks into their music.
There are a few highlights on LABYRINTHITIS which showcase how engaging Destroyer can be at their best. The opening track, “It’s in Your Heart Now,” is produced immaculately, and has a great chord progression; toward the middle of the song, you can hear a synth line that almost sounds like a subdued electric guitar. The track doesn’t feel like it drags on, even though it’s almost 7 minutes long. Songs like “June” and “Tintoretto, It’s for You” incorporate strange and idiosyncratic rhythms, which force the rest of the instrumentation to adapt in interesting ways. “Tintoretto, It’s for You” incorporates a strong, forceful synth melody that almost sounds video game-esque. The song manages to sound epic and grandiose in a way that none of the other tracks on the album do. Other songs on the album, like “Eat the Wine, Drink the Bread” and “It Takes a Thief” take influence from funk and dance music, making them much more anthemic and poppy than much of the other material on this album. It should be added that they’re both extremely catchy. The somewhat awkward vocal delivery and the lyrics’ quirky sense of humor enhance this album, especially on the songs “Suffer” and “The Last Song.” There’s a lot to appreciate creatively about this record, which is more than can be said for some of Destroyer’s previous releases.
Some blemishes on this record could be addressed to improve future releases. Some of the songs, like “June” and “The States,” overstay their welcome, and sometimes sound like there isn’t really much going on in the songwriting except excessive repetition. There isn’t enough engaging material in these songs to justify their runtime. The vocal delivery comes off too awkward on both of these tracks, to the point where it’s no longer endearing and is slightly annoying. The title track to this album is also just sort of boring, and, to be frank, was not necessary to include as an interlude on the album. On occasion, the actual instruments themselves sound cheap or low-quality, like the synths on “Suffer” and “June.” These issues don’t affect every song on the album, but they detract from the songs they’re on pretty greatly.
On LABYRINTHITIS, Destroyer successfully regains the lightning in a bottle their work had pre-Kaputt. Some songs could’ve been weeded out of the tracklist, but they don’t detract from the highlights of this album, which include some of the best material Destroyer has released in years.