The New Pornographers/Continue As A Guest/Merge
Four out of Five Stars
A year in the making, Continue As A Guest, Canadian band The New Pornographers’ ninth album, is a typically complex work involving tangled sounds and a series of intriguing elements that take time to fully digest. Written by the band’s main mastermind A.C. Newman, it also includes essential contributions from his steady collaborators—Neko Case (vocals), Kathryn Calder (keyboards, vocals), John Collins (bass, guitar, keyboards), Todd Fancey (guitar), Zack Djanikian (bass, guitar, saxophones, and Joe Seiders (drums, vocals).
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While many of the themes center around the despair and disappointment of life in an era where isolation and insecurity run rampant, the melodies themselves are surprisingly chipper for the most part and even giddy to a certain degree. That adds to the intrigue, whether it’s the steady whoops that intrude on the otherwise insistent “Last and Beautiful,” the quiet tick-tock that kicks off “Wish Automatic Suite” or the shimmer and shine that emanates from “Cat and Mouse With the Light.” Newman occasionally adapts a falsetto and on songs such as the earnest and effusive “Really Really Light” it effectively underscores the band’s demonstrative delivery. Other times, the band opts for more of a psychedelic soundscape, courtesy of their penchant for a cataclysmic collision of vocals and instrumentation.
Ultimately, The New Pornographers specialize in creating a most satisfying sound—the effusive rush of “Bottle Episodes” and “Angelcover,” being two of the more obvious examples—while also making music that begs repeat listens in order to fully grasp the magnitude of their overarched intents. Imagination runs rampant throughout, and while the melodies add to the allure, it’s also obvious the band has higher ambitions in mind. No ordinary rock band, they take a progressive posture that’s never meant to elude their listeners but instead draw them further into the fray.
In that regard, The New Pornographers are decidedly hard to define. Yet at the same time, Continue As A Guest never loses its luster.
Photo courtesy Sacks & Co.