The New Pornographers – Together (Matador) 03/05/2010

May 19, 2010 by  

“Together” is the fifth album by the Vancouver power pop collective, The New Pornographers, and sees the band produce a solid collection of likeable tunes. Carl Newman is once again the main songwriter here, (he writes nine out of the twelve songs) and each member of this impressive group of Canadian artists such as Neko Case, Dan Bejar (who writes the other three) and Kathryn Calder all have their chance to shine.

There are of course, many fun moments throughout this record, whether it’s the bright mid-tempo rock of “Your Hands (Together)”, the triumphant power pop of “Up in the Dark” or the playful Americana vibe of “If You Can’t See My Mirrors”, where Bejar’s and Case’s vocals contrast wonderfully on the chorus. Its also noticeable that when there is less emphasis on big musical arrangements such as “Silver Jenny Dollar”, it allows the vocals to be more refined, therefore letting the music to sound at its most joyful (I guarantee you will have the repeated lines of “Silver Jenny Dollar, la la la la” stuck in your head for hours after hearing it).

“Crash Years” bounces along nicely and its combination of uplifting cello sections and whistled melodies create a gleeful mood where Case’s vocals are brilliantly strong and stylish. “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” is full of whimsical and cheery melodies and includes an organ part that evokes the sunny, retro pop sound of the Beach Boys. The similarity disappears once the country-like chorus kicks in, and the combined vocals of Newman and Case soar delightfully together.

“Valkyrie in the Roller Disco” is one of the few slow songs on the record and begins with Newman’s vocals sounding like they’re being sung in an empty bedroom, thus giving the song a bit of lo-fi charm. Unfortunately this doesn’t last long due to the addition of Calder’s multiple vocal tracks which ends up spoiling the song’s charisma. The song doesn’t really go anywhere (the other songs at least climax into a big chorus) and kind of plods along aimlessly. However, there is a flash of innovation in the middle section where an E-bow solo adds a pleasant texture, but just as you begin to feel that it’s about to build into something cool, it disappears and before you know it, you are back at the chorus again. Oh well.

Daughter’s of Sorrow” is where the Pornographers get the numerous vocal parts to combine at its best, as the differences of the band’s vocal styles result in some wonderful swirling harmonies that build up nicely in the chorus. The song also contains some lush horns and a significant reversed guitar line that nudges the track (albeit briefly) towards an interesting direction. In fact, it would have provided a much better album closer than “We End up Together”, which trudges along for well over five minutes and gradually becomes repetitive and dull.

“Together” is by no means an average album, it’s full of well-written, uplifting songs and there are several moments throughout where each member’s distinctive and expert musicianship can be heard. After the slightly disappointing inward and reflective direction the band took on “Challengers”, “Together” is definitely a return to form for The New Pornographers, as they have created an album full of slick power pop that will no doubt have you humming along all the way.

[rating:3.5]


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