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The New Pornographers: Together

The New Pornographers


Matador Records

May 4, 2010

"Light a candle’s end
You are a light turned low
And like the rest of us
You got those old eternity blues"

~ "Crash Years"

The art of the pop song is still alive in the realm of rock ‘n’ roll, as evidenced by Together, the latest album from multi-talented Vancouver collective The New Pornographers.  Featuring the consistently inspired songwriting of Carl Newman and Dan Bejar as well as their and Neko Case’s effusive vocal talents, Together is the power pop album you’ll be spinning all summer.

Together starts off with several instant classics, as chunky strings take over where keyboards may have roamed before on ground-shakers like "Moves" and "Crash Years."  Deep, staccato cello lines and Kurt Dahle's tom-toms add fist-thumping accents to an ongoing, head-bobbing rhythm of perfectly strummed acoustic guitars.  The songs boast the typically lush layers of Newman’s songwriting as well as quirky tidbits like melodic whistles. 

While these two opening tracks are referentially postmodern in their allusion to other songs – "Crash Years" borrowing a melody from George Harrison’s "You" and "Moves" being partly about Chicago’s illustrious "25 or 6 to 4" – the songs also capture both the simple pain of chasing a lover as well as the complex fear that suffuses modern man in the face of economic instability.  In fact, I take more from the latter insights than the song references, although perhaps that's because they are my own, and not gleaned from sources like Rick Moody’s heady biography of the band on Matador’s website. 

The album takes a bit of a turn with "Silver Jenny Dollar," penned by Bejar and thereby a bit more eccentric but still wonderfully catchy.  Two tracks later we get a full dose of Neko Case’s sweetness on her ballad "My Shepherd," which also features Kathryn Calder, who sometimes fills in live for Case but is now coming into her own as a full member of the band. 

There are some other talented guests on Together alongside the deep roster of New Pornographers, including Okkervil River's Will Sheff, St. Vincent's Annie Clark, Beirut's Zach Condon, and the horns of The Dap-Kings

While each member of The New Pornographers brings his or her own unique sensibility to the project, they nevertheless always come together in a way that is instantly recognizable.  They are a band unafraid to write shiny pop songs that are both playful and sincere.  The variety of instruments, beautifully layered arrangements, and perfect balance of tempo and restraint puts Together in the running for my favorite New Pornographers album. 

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