Sunday, May 16, 2010

Joy! Joy! Joy!

It's time for you to read about the newest of The New Pornographers. Don't want to? Then I hate you.

The New Pornographers

Together (2010)
Rating: 8.5 (out of 10)

Since I started writing songs myself, really writing songs, I've always had something of a power-pop bent. There's something magical about big chords, sweet hooks, and choruses you just keep wanting to return to long after a first listen. Despite my love of quality power-pop, I've run into some issues when searching for artists to fill this particular musical void. Scratch that. Really it's just one issue. Most power-pop bands are shitty. It's because of this fact that I so readily latched onto The New Pornographers, a band that includes folks like Carl Newman (once of Zumpano), Dan Bejar (of Destroyer), and Neko Case (she has a prominent solo career).

After three truly excellent albums to begin their career together, The New Pornos sort of faltered on their senior outing. It's not that 2007's Challengers was bad or anything, it just wasn't up to standards. Quite frankly, it felt like an album made by a talented collective that lost their steam and was ready to fall into Veteran Indie Musician Mediocrity. Three years later, I know all of that to be complete bullshit. Challengers was a little bit of a misfire, but it had very little to do with the career path the band had in mind. This is crystal clear right out of the gate on Together.

"Moves" is the sort of Pornos song that litters 2005's Twin Cinema. It runs around, ratchets up the happy, and rattles between the ears. As soon as I heard it for the first time, I felt abundant relief and excitement for the rest of the album. "Crash Years" is catchy as hell, and even if it isn't "Letter From An Occupant," Neko Case really tears it up. And then comes "Your Hands (Together)," another song with a big hook and some unforgettable moments. Let's just say Together has a powerful triumvirate to start things off, and things don't get much worse the rest of the way. "Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk" feels pretty triumphant, and "Valkyrie In the Roller Disco" offers a temporary and effective change of pace. "A Bite Out of My Bed" is a real pop gem, while "We End Up Together" fits perfectly as this album's closer.

Things aren't completely flawless on Together, but they're reasonably close. Once again, Dan Bejar's contributions feel a little bit, um, annoying sometimes. "Silver Jenny Dollar" is pleasant enough, but Bejar's exaggerated pronunciations are starting to wear thin on me. "If You Can't See My Mirrors" has sort of the same effect; Bejar just sounds creepy sometimes, and not in the good way.

The overall package presented to us as Together is a really good one that falls just short of the band's very best moments. Together is aptly named. For me, it's a record that you listen to with someone you love, something you have playing while your windows are down and you're driving somewhere exciting. Appropriately enough given its release date, it's a fantastic group of songs to listen to as the flowers bloom and spring gives way to summer. I'm pleasantly surprised by this one, and I've learned my lesson. Quit doubting immense talent.

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