"He gets compared to Ashbery and Wallace Stevens sometimes when critics reach for literary reference points, and fair enough, but one could make an equally strong case for Malkmus as the Thomas Hardy of rock…" (me)
You know who really is like Ashbery, though, is Dan Bejar. Neither of them are afraid of the gaudiness of the purely ornamental style, though neither of them give into it completely (key difference from Stevens (Wallace and/or Sufjan)): they always make sure to keep a line open to the demotic. And neither of them go in for rhyme and meter (with occasional, significant exceptions) but both have a very sure and characteristic sense of rhythm, albeit one which dances blithely between music, speech and prose. They're natural (I know, I know). They don't pretend to be craftsmen, but don't pretend to be spontaneous either: what they do is exemplify the mind of the highly aesthetically cultured individual, stuffed with bits of finery it's not sure it needs.
The more I think about this the more it seems like an apt comparison, especially w/r/t the new Destroyer album. Trouble in Dreams could be an Ashbery title; doing an eight-minute track called "Shooting Rockets (From the Desk of Night's Ape)" shares his sense of outrageousness.