Categories :

Similar artists

Albums

HI-RES$14.99
CD$12.99

Alternative & Indie - Released September 27, 2019 | Concord Records

Hi-Res
CD$11.99

Alternative & Indie - Released August 22, 2005 | Matador

When the New Pornographers released their first album, Mass Romantic, in 2000, they were a cult sensation, partially because they were comprised of cult sensations from Vancouver, chief among them Carl Newman of Zumpano, Dan Bejar of Destroyer, and alt-country singer/songwriter Neko Case. Not longer after that first album, Case started to earn some accolades on her own, thereby raising the group's profile, which meant that their second album, 2003's Electric Version, garnered more attention than their debut. But by that point, the band had its own word-of-mouth following, large enough to attract the attention of indie rock standard-bearer Matador, who not only released the New Pornographers' sophomore effort, but Newman's superb solo album The Slow Wonder in the summer of 2004. All this set the stage for the group's third album, Twin Cinema, which arrived in late summer 2005 to rather high expectations -- after all, they not only had two fine records underneath their belt, but The Slow Wonder was also well regarded (and earned some airtime on The OC to boot), so the time seemed ripe for a masterpiece from the New Pornographers. By that standard, Twin Cinema is a disappointment, since it does not constitute either a definitive statement or a great leap forward, but by nearly every other measure, it's a success. Like their previous two records, it's a bright, hooky record that sounds cheerful even when the tempos slow down and the melodies drift toward a minor key. It's sharp and tuneful, abundant in references to classic guitar pop yet never sounding beholden to the past, thanks to the lively, loose performances, a simple yet muscular production, and smart writing, usually from the pen of Newman. Although he writes ten of the 13 songs here (Bejar contributes the other three, including the insistent "Jackie, Dressed in Cobras" and "Broken Breads," which comes across like Syd Barrett fronting the Kinks or Robyn Hitchcock jamming with the Hoodoo Gurus, depending on your point of view), Newman has a different perspective when writing for the New Pornographers, composing within a specific framework that emphasizes the collective nature of the group, giving every member more or less equal time. And, as Twin Cinema proves, collective is a better word to describe the New Pornographers than band, since they have a friendly, casual vibe that sounds like the product of informal jam sessions. That's appealing, but it's also part of the reason that the New Pornographers can't quite deliver a masterpiece, or an album that's as strong and sustained as The Slow Wonder. Since all contributions are treated equally, the group doesn't have a distinctive personality or focal point outside of the tunefulness of the music itself. Which is not to say that the New Pornographers lack engaging singers -- Newman has a sweet everyman voice, perfect for power pop, and Neko Case is so gripping a singer that it's hard not to wish she took the lead more often -- but there's such an emphasis on never overemphasizing any specific member that the music winds up humble to a fault. Which is why the New Pornographers are more of an indie band than a power pop band: instead of trading in titanic hooks and glistening surfaces, they make deliberately small-scale, insular music that cuts its classicist nature with enigmatic, sometimes impenetrable lyrics and ragged performances. While that may keep the group from power pop greatness, there's no denying that they're charming in their modesty, which is what makes Twin Cinema an endearing listen, if not a flat-out knockout. Like the previous two New Pornographers albums, there are plenty of great tunes here -- including the hard-rocking, invigorating title track, the urgent "Use It," and the moody, meditative "These Are the Fables" -- that are reminiscent of classic '60s and '70s guitar pop without specifically sounding like any band in particular. The hooks and harmonies tumble out one after another, as the band plays with energy and enthusiasm that falls somewhat short of being truly exciting, yet the catchiness of the songs is a good compensation for that. All this adds up to a very enjoyable record, one that compares favorably to what the band has done before, even if its modest nature suggests that the New Pornographers have found their niche, and will continue to refine it instead of expand upon it. While that may disappoint some waiting for a masterpiece, there's no shame in mining the same ground as long as they make records as tight and tuneful as this. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
HI-RES$14.99
CD$12.99

Alternative & Indie - Released April 7, 2017 | Concord Records

Hi-Res Booklet
CD$11.99

Alternative & Indie - Released October 7, 2003 | Matador

Mass Romantic is a barnstorming debut from the New Pornographers, a collection of Vancouver-based indie rockers. With chief songwriting duties falling into the hands of Destroyer's Dan Bejar and Zumpano's Carl Newman, the album displays a decidedly power pop form of indie rock. Guitars wail and ratchet as keyboards swirl toward every direction of the compass. The vocals, handled by Bejar, Newman, drummer Kurt Dahl, and alt-country star Neko Case, are sung in a style that delivers maximum catchiness. The band displays a keen sense of musical history, as the songs cover influences ranging from the Beatles ("The Mary Martin Show") to David Bowie ("The Slow Descent into Alcoholism") to T. Rex ("Mystery Hours") to Todd Rundgren ("The Fake Headlines"). Mass Romantic is noisy, fuzzy, crunchy, and hook-heavy. It's an album that reveals its charms through repeat listens, and makes a listener wonder how the band can master so many different musical styles via so many vocalists while still maintaining a fiercely cohesive sound. Case, who has previously proven herself a master of warped country crooning, proves herself equally accomplished in the world of rock swagger with her vocals on "Mass Romantic" and "Letter from an Occupant"; she provides background vocals on a number of other tracks as well. In some better alternate reality, Mass Romantic's bitter yet sugary staccato treats would have burnt up the charts with hit single after hit single. ~ Tim DiGravina
CD$11.99

Alternative & Indie - Released May 6, 2003 | Matador

Three years after the sonic honey of Mass Romantic, the New Pornographers come up smiling once more with their sophomore effort and Matador debut, Electric Version. These beloved indie rockers stick with the syrupy goodness found on their first album, but opt to turn the amps up for a brighter, slicker sound, hence the title. It's a kitschy play on the band's power pop, and Carl Newman and secret member Dan Bejar keep their clever lyrical twists in tune. Twiddling riffs and organs dance with Neko Case's sunny harmonies on the rollicking "It's Only Divine Right" and "From Blown Speakers." The energy is there, but Electric Version captures a new kind of energy from the New Pornographers. While Mass Romantic was a little more quirky in spirit, Electric Version is more polished. They took just under a year to create this album, so naturally a fresh confidence would transpire and "The Laws Have Changed" highlights the New Pornographers' musical growth. This album standout is bold as brass, drenched in Case and Newman's perky vocals. "All for Swinging You Around" takes things further with wacky synth beats and tripped-up percussion, Velocity Girl-style, but its the band's own glossed-over rock & roll on "Miss Teen Worldpower" that truly represents the smooth emotion and might behind the New Pornographers' sound. Electric Version is an enjoyable and easy listen, chock-full of hungry hooks and brimming with indie rock's classic humility. ~ MacKenzie Wilson
CD$11.99

Alternative & Indie - Released August 25, 2014 | Matador

Some bands aim for a grand, widescreen sound when they go into the studio, but the New Pornographers refuse to be satisfied with anything short of 3-D IMAX, with their songs accompanied by thundering drums, massive cascades of keyboards, towering vocal choruses, and chugging, percussive melodies that power it all. It would be easy for the New Pornographers to sound absurdly ostentatious if it weren't for the fact there's a fiercely beating heart in the midst of their music, and at their best, the indie supergroup seems to be having a grand time constructing their walls of sound. 2014's Brill Bruisers is a suitably grandiose follow-up to 2010's Together, and the fact it took seven different recording studios to assemble tells you something about the album's sonic ambition, but A.C. Newman's tunes are graceful, clever, and catchy despite their size, like a blimp that easily floats with the breeze, and the vocals from Newman, Neko Case, Dan Bejar, and Kathryn Calder bring both drama and passion to this music. (Bejar's three songs seem a good bit more compact than Newman's, especially the lean and paranoid "Spyder," but even that finds room for a manic drum break and some wailing harmonica). As is this group's habit, Brill Bruisers is lyrically cryptic, but while there seems to be a dour edge to most of the verbiage, the music is usually upbeat when the melodic hooks take hold, and with Kelly Hogan contributing guest vocals on four tracks, this singing powerhouse sounds more impressive than ever. If you have a grand desire to take on the world and want a suitable indie rock soundtrack, Brill Bruisers will certainly do the trick, and if this isn't the best effort to date from the New Pornographers, it most certainly doesn't disappoint. ~ Mark Deming
CD$11.99

Alternative & Indie - Released May 3, 2010 | Matador

Usually, the whole trick behind pop music is to appear effortless, but the New Pornographers turn that equation on its head, making it a habit of showing their work in every tune. So dense their songs, so labyrinthine their lyrics, they tend to inspire admiration, not slack-jawed wonder, but it’s to the Canadian supergroup’s great credit that the music never feels like an intellectual exercise: the hooks are there, they’re just not immediate. Fortunately, Together -- the group’s fifth album -- does feel immediate, a muscular riposte to 2007’s inward-gazing Challengers; it’s a record that sounds sinewy even when slathered with strings. When the cellos are really sawing away, as they are from the moment the record starts, the scale of the New Pornographers' ambition and melodic dedication often recall an ELO without ornamentation (or Jeff Lynne’s enduring love of Jerry Lee Lewis boogie, for that matter), occasionally fronted by Robyn Hitchcock in the guise of Destroyer’s Dan Bejar, whose flights of impenetrable fancy do not seem incongruous because A.C. Newman’s songs are equally elusive. Which is why Neko Case is so crucial to the group’s success: she’s the blood that flows through the band, turning whimsy into something resembling reality without giving the listener pause, which is no small talent. And perhaps that’s why this album is called Together: more than any other of the New Pornographers' albums, this feels like a group effort, each element united to create uniquely cerebral power pop. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
CD$11.99

Alternative & Indie - Released August 20, 2007 | Matador

There never has been much of a question that the New Pornographers are a cerebral power pop band -- A.C. Newman's songs dance around meaning and Dan Bejar deliberately turns meaning inside out -- but they always hit the gut instead of the head due to their propulsive melodies and sweetly muscular guitars. Such was the case up through 2005's Twin Cinema, anyway, but on their fourth album, 2007's Challengers, they turn inward, tempering their hooks and muting their colors, winding up with an album that emphasizes their admirable qualities first, with their endearing ones revealing themselves only after repeated plays. It's true that the New Pornographers' albums have always been growers, records that unveiled their gifts over time, but Challengers is their biggest grower yet, a dense collection of carefully constructed and brain-power pop where even the liveliest song, "All the Things That Go to Make Heaven and Earth," is a tense, nervous cacophony of ideas and riffs that doesn't grab hold -- it plants a seed that later blooms. Few of the other songs here are as fast or jumbled as that -- it's every bit the early Roxy Music salute Newman claims it is -- as the rest of the album dwells over slower, softer territory, or precisely written pop tunes where no left turn goes unexplored. At least that's true of Newman's tunes, and he once again dominates the album, writing nine out of the 12 tracks. Newman has a knack for writing segments that are bright, hooky, and seemingly indelible, possessing the blinding rush of the best power pop, but when he's writing for this band, he assembles these colorful shards of melody in challenging ways, creating intricate mosaics where the melodies never quite lead exactly where they seem they would. Although the New Pornographers play these songs with an unassuming directness, Newman's pop requires active listening, especially here on Challengers, as it's built upon carefully arranged and quietly performed songs. Bejar balances these precious tendencies of Newman by indulging in his eccentricities. His songs aren't as detailed in their arrangements, but this only accentuates his oddness, where he can make either the slow, spooky crawl of "Myriad Harbour" or the delicate Brit-pop stomp of "Entering White Cecilia" seem equally off balance. As always, this does make for a good contrast to the essential sweetness of Newman's melodies (perhaps best heard on the openers, "My Rights Versus Yours" and "All the Old Showstoppers," the gateway drugs for the rest of the album), but it often seems as if Newman knows that he has a gift for these sweet melodies, so he undercuts that gift by having his melodies follow unconventional paths, and by having his lyrical meaning so well hidden that it often seems not worth the bother to analyze. So, this is internal music, best suited for solitary listening, but the odd thing about Challengers is that it has the inherent tension and messiness of a band, where harmonies float in and out and the group rides a natural rhythm instead of a click track. And that, more so than the seesaw between Newman's and Bejar's songs, is the true balance of the New Pornographers, because both writers benefit from having a band that plays like a band: while you may not be able to decipher these writers immediately, they sell their eccentricities as something that's quintessentially, endearingly human, and that talent proves invaluable on a record as subtle, yet rewarding, as Challengers. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
CD$12.99

Alternative & Indie - Released September 27, 2019 | Concord Records

CD$12.99

Alternative & Indie - Released April 7, 2017 | Concord Records

Calling the New Pornographers' music smart pop almost underestimates the group; there's smart, and then there's these folks, whose cleverness suggests their tunes got their undergrad degree at Yale and did their master's at Harvard. But A.C. Newman and his crew also have a keen understanding of the mind/body conundrum -- they want their music to be as intelligent as they are, but they also want it to feel good. At their best, the New Pornographers have shown they know how to strike an impressive balance between what's smart and what's fun since dropping Mass Romantic in 2000. They've once again hit that mark all but perfectly on 2017's Whiteout Conditions. Full of gleaming surfaces dominated by drums and keyboards, this album suggests a new wave dance disc of the '80s that had the chance to mature and do a lot of reading, and this music is mature while still encouraging the listener to crash the party and dance. Electronic keyboards and percussion dominate the arrangements, but the results sound admirably organic, as if there's a healthy pulse beneath all the electronics, and Newman made clever use of his vocalists, as voices glide over the music that's constructed in part from samples of their own singing. And if there's a healthy portion of cynicism in these songs, that's one of the reasons Newman and his Pornographers sound warm and realistic, without succumbing to a false optimism common to this sort of music. You can dance to the music on Whiteout Conditions; you can also tap your feet, sing along, or just ponder its literacy if you prefer, and it will be rewarding under any circumstance. If North America has a better and more insightful pop group than the New Pornographers, don't tell them, or they'll start on a new reading program to beat the competition. Whiteout Conditions shows they're already brighter and more satisfying than just about any of their peers. ~ Mark Deming
CD$1.49

Alternative & Indie - Released August 2, 2019 | Concord Records

CD$1.49

Alternative & Indie - Released September 13, 2019 | Concord Records

CD$1.49

Alternative & Indie - Released August 23, 2019 | Concord Records