By Dustin VandeHoef
I like to think that every good album out there has at least one atmosphere that lends itself to the best listening experience for it. For instance LCD Soundsystem’s ‘The Sound of Silver’ has never sounded better to me than the times its coming from a good friends iHome while we prefunk a party. Panda Bear’s ‘Tomboy’ frustrated me for weeks until I had surgery and then couldn’t stop listening to it, the reverbing vocals matching my incoherent drug-riddled thoughts (not that I believe that’s the universal best situation for it but it certainly worked for me).
If you decide to listen to ‘Kaputt‘ after this review here’s the atmosphere I suggest for it. Get yourself a nice cigar (a Dutch Master will suffice if you’re strapped for cash), some of your favorite whiskey (you won’t be mixing it), a close friend that enjoys talking philosophy and politics, and to really pull it all together ‘Kaputt‘ on vinyl. Unless your name is Don Draper I promise doing this will make you feel the classiest you have all year.
The first thing opener ‘Chinatown‘ will introduce you to is the man behind the music – Dan Bejar, and more importantly, Dan Bejar’s voice. I don’t know anything about the man’s history but if I had to guess what be was like based strictly off how he sounds on ‘Kaputt‘ I’d say he’s a man that’s traveled to the farthest corners and sampled the finest vices – the drugs, the women, the alcohol – and is now coming back from his exotic travels to reveal the secrets he’s heard. It’s a voice that sounds learned and wise, like its always being filtered through a smoky veil. Which is perfect for his poetic delivery style where imagery and witty non-sequiter thoughts are more important than any coherent story structure.
The second thing ‘Chinatown‘ will introduce you to is the lush 80’s sounding trumpets that run throughout. These will probably sound cheesy at first appearance but will become undeniably seductive by the time ‘Bay of Pigs‘ closes the album. Accompanying the trumpets are twinkling synths and Bejar’s ear for delicious guitar hooks that show up at just the right moments on every song they’re in. Most impressively on ‘A Savage Night at the Opera‘ which erupts into an electric guitar solo at its climax, complimenting Bejar’s demand that we “just set the loop and then go wild.”
The two longest songs on the album are ‘Bay of Pigs‘ and ‘Suicide Demo for Kara Walker‘. The first is the 11 minute closer that breaks much of the mold laid down before by the rest of the songs. Trumpets are replaced by washed out synths while Bejar muses on a love lost. It takes an unexpected turn by the end however and takes ‘Kaputt‘ out on a very strong note. ‘Suicide Demo‘ works as the centerpiece and is the album’s (and in my opinion 2011’s) best song. Opening with hazy brass and piano and closing with what sounds like Radiohead’s ‘The National Anthem’ if it was being covered for a smooth jazz lounge, ‘Suicide Demo‘ is all of ‘Kaputt‘s grandest ideas condensed into 8 minutes.
‘Kaputt‘ may be the best example yet of music in 2011 reaching back in time for inspiration. It’s a piece of art that’s only existed for several months but wouldn’t feel wrong to call vintage. And most importantly Brejar has made ‘Kaputt‘ a record that will feel immediately warm and intimate, a place you want to spend your time. A place that only gets harder to leave every time the record spins again.
Suicide Demo for Kara Walker