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Album Review

by The New Pornographers


Review Date
Reviewed by
Brannavan Gnanalingam

It’d be easy to underestimate The New Pornographers. The fact they have always sounded like they’re just having a jam, has perhaps led to their music being a little too underrated. AC Newman has written some the last decade’s best pop songs (specifically ‘Letter from an Occupant’, ‘Sing Me Spanish Techno’) and he (along with the other star songwriters) manages to coalesce considerable influences into one raucous mix. However 2007’s Challengers delivered a more introspective sound, as if the band tired of being seen as a party band for some of indie music’s most fêted stars (including Neko Case, Dan Bejar of Destroyer). Their latest, Together, falls somewhere in between – the arrangements are denser and more diverse than many of their previous albums, yet there’s an energy which was lacking from Challengers.

Like all of their albums, Together takes more than a few listens for it to reveal its gems. Yet the album does feel a little more constricted than previous albums. It’s an album which threatens to sag underneath its arrangements and its all-star collaborators (added to the mix this time include Beirut, Will Sheff, the Dap Kings, St Vincent). These extra factors also mean integral members like Neko Case and Dan Bejar have a more muted role in the proceedings. In a sense, part of what made The New Pornographers so thrilling is tempered down by an almost too self-conscious craft. Newman’s talent was always to make the complex sound effortlessly simple, but Together is slightly clunkier than the band at its best.

Despite this, there is plenty here which is hugely enjoyable. An early highlight is the unconscionably catchy ‘The Crash Years’ the closest thing to match The New Pornographers finest singles, with its excellent use of strings, and charming whistling. The stadium rock riffage of ‘Your Hands Together’ neatly segues into more blissful melodies in its chorus. A neat run is completed by the sweet harmonies of ‘Silver Jenny Dollar’. The album closer is another excellent pop song – ‘We End Up Together’s unpredictable melodies and male/female vocal harmonies finishing off the album strongly. While Together isn’t necessarily the band’s finest work, it’s still good enough to show that the Canadian super-group are still rather super.

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