Daniel Bejar writes a sequel to his hit musical novel, Destroyer’s Rubies
Trouble in Dreams’ opening track, “Blue Flower/Blue Flame,” posits the album as a very similar beast to Daniel Bejar’s superlative 2006 LP, Destroyer’s Rubies. Bejar’s reedy yet mellifluous voice waxes prolix and obscure over a sturdy acoustic strum embroidered with gleaming electric leads. “A woman by another name is not a woman,” he sings, “I’ll tell you what I mean by that / Maybe not in seconds flat, maybe not today.” This is exactly how Bejar’s music works: his expansive pop rock is labyrinthine in its construction and content, meting out new details and meanings to the patient listener.
If Trouble in Dreams feels a tad less revelatory than Rubies, it’s only because it’s very similar, and this time, we’re prepared for Bejar’s songwriting quantum leap. Tumbling rocker “Dark Leaves Form a Thread” has the same balance of jaded and euphoric vocalizations that made “European Oils” such a full-bodied pleasure, like Dylan blurring into Danielson Famile. “The State” finds Bejar bending country-rock tropes into his typically lucid pop lines, just as he did on “A Dangerous Woman Up to a Point.” “Foam Hands,” with its little arcs of starfire guitar, is the same kind of atmospheric creeper as “Painter in Your Pocket.” But reinvention is for broken things, and Rubies was such a well-tooled formula that fans should be glad to have a worthy, likeminded successor: another hearty dose of musical-theater vocals, incandescent guitar solos, long swelling arrangements and jarring enfilades of exploding drums. And Bejar’s idiom is so organic that while the maze feels familiar, the twists and turns still feel unpredictable until they hit your ears with a clang of inevitability.