There was a time, maybe a decade or two ago, my head fizzing like a two-liter soda with the excitement of discovery, when I was answering every question about what I was listening to with one band: Destroyer.
“They’re totally great!” I shouted over the ambient soundscapes of many different rooms. I stand by this even today, though hopefully my attempts at persuasion have grown both more subtle and more empathetic. Destroyer is a whole world, and even if you find yourself moved by a genuine bopper like “The Very Modern Dance,” just one of several full-throated rock jams on the 2001 album “Streethawk,” you might not be interested in opening that door any wider.
Well, fair enough. But with quiet determination and sober earnestness I suggest you consider the 2002 follow-up, “This Night.” Look at its comfortingly dark cover, the songs listed in a shade of red so as not to ruin your night vision, the small square photo of desert and cactus backgrounding a man who is completely enveloped in shadow even while standing in the sunlight. Listening to “This Night” is like standing in the cool shadow of a building on an early July morning.
“This Night” is not a record that’s in a hurry to get anywhere. It’s the longest Destroyer record by at least 10 minutes, and the songs unspool themselves with a deceptive languorousness. (Deceptive, because the album isn’t devoid of up-tempo tracks and high-energy sing-along moments; it’s just that the songs don’t begin or end that way.) Listening to “This Night” is like following a path at dusk. It’s a record to sit with.
I suppose I’m not surprised that some initial reactions to it were lukewarm. Musically it is a sharp departure from its predecessor, and for every brilliantly cryptic lyric I suppose some souls might instead hear stubbornly gnomic obscurantism. For me there’s scarcely higher praise, but it is a wide old world and you must find your own way through it.
I’ve found “This Night” to be a steady companion, comfortable, even mellow, somehow sounding like a throwback without quite lining up with any specific antecedent. It sounds mysterious but not foreboding, often even sweet, like the kind of pop music you might hear playing sourcelessly in an abandoned lighthouse on a dramatically picturesque stretch of coastline.
• Simon Sizer is the legal and obituary clerk at the Yakima Herald-Republic. He’s constantly prattling on about music, so we gave him this column.