THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS
(Arts and Crafts)
One of the strongest qualities of the Vancouver-based New Pornographers is that they don’t let their lineup do all the work. The eight-member band, which includes Canadian singer-songwriter and leader A.C. Newman, Destroyer’s Dan Bejar and American singer-songwriter Neko Case, could easily rest on its supergroup status and leave their songs on the backburner, but they don’t. Instead, they’ve been long known for crafting infectious power-pop tunes with thoughtful lyrics, songs that never at all sound like the gratuitous musings of a few stars getting together for a jam.
Their latest album, Together, brings even more star power on board, enlisting help from the likes of the Dap Kings, Zach Condon of Beirut, Will Sheff of Okkervil River and Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent. The record is upbeat and chock full of pop hooks, with Newman’s and Bejar’s compositions channeling pop rock bands of decades past on harmony-laden tracks like “Your Hands (Together)” and “Silver Dollar Jenny.” What separates them from their predecessors, however, is the disconnect between their music and their lyrics, which are often dark and complex. This divide can be slightly jarring, but at its best, as on Newman’s “A Bite Out of My Bed,” provides a diametric opposition that creates the most enjoyable and enlightening of musical tension. Despite the distinct musical talents involved, Together is surprisingly as its name suggests—cohesive. The New Pornographers sound like a band—and a damn good one at that—rather than an assortment of musicians who merely record together in between solo projects.