At this point, Dan Bejar may as well be an institution. Consistently producing fine music for more than twenty years (fans: feeling old yet?) now, whether as Destroyer, an integral revolving portion of The New Pornographers, or his numerous other side projects and collaborations, the man is nothing if not a fixture. A constant, if you will. If his previous outing with his primary vehicle, Poison Season, went by a tad underrated and underloved, it's surely a simple byproduct of his dogged, untarnished permanence. He simply doesn't miss.

So, then, arrives ken, likely assured a similar fate, but no less sure of itself. Writing about Destroyer in 2017 is somewhat of a challenge: his followers and critics alike will embrace and be bothered by the same things as always. His ear for flawless, tasteful, poetic pop, offset by his playful singing voice (or, “faux” style, as his detractors persist in seeing it.).

Luckily for me, the music on ken speaks for itself. Despite the inevitable aforementioned familiarity, Bejar is never one to fully sprawl across his laurels, always seeking to challenge himself just enough to keep his work fresh. While he may never again pull a pivot so grand as Kaputt's full embrace of pop savvy, this album scales back significantly from the relative bombast of the grand Poison Season in favor of a more intimate, simple setting. Stranding himself nearly alone – aside from longtime collaborator Josh Wells – Bejar hunkered down to record the simultaneously unconcerned and emotional splash that is ken.

As has already been discussed around the web to the point of ubiquity, the album finds its creator in a relative state of paranoia, fretting over what he should have predicted and fearing what he's losing (and lost). To an extent, it feels like an indirect response to aging as a long term musician, Bejar himself has pointedly underplayed this aspect, but when he muses, “Bands sing their songs and then disappear,” on ‘In the Morning’, it's hard to ignore.

Naturally, the Destroyer trademarks are still present. Album highlight ‘Saw You at the Hospital’ boasts a poetic narrative of watching a loved one gradually lose their mind in a medical ward, as vivid as it comes (in a twist, the song is in fact somewhat autobiographical of his time in a Swiss hospital). Opener ‘Sky's Grey’ finds him in expected state of tragic grandiosity as he declares, “I've been working on the new Oliver Twist,” bringing to mind an author that will almost surely never finish his “masterpiece.”

This gradually leads back into ‘Stay Lost’, which at only 2:22 still manages to feel like a centerpiece: it begins as a continuation of the first song, evolving into something akin to ken's mission statement. If life offers no grand bliss, or worse still simply the dread and confusion of our current mess, there is always, at least, acceptance. For all the melodrama and bleakness to be found here, Bejar never sounds all too worried. The show goes on. Listening, we feel, perhaps, a similar sense of detachment. With the world seeming to burn around us, a buffer – even be it a delusion – doesn't sound so bad. Not bad at all.