Tuesday, August 14th, 2007
All The Things That Go To Make Heaven And Earth
Everyone loved the first The New Pornographers record, Mass Romantic. Everyone who loved non-stop flume rides of power pop goodness, anyways. This is a statement of record. And even though the follow-up Electric Version was, for my money, just as good and just as monkey barrel-fun, some folks found reasons to say it was inferior to its predecessor. These people are wrong.
But with their third record, 2005’s Twin Cinema, they chose to mix up the recipe a little and schisms appeared in the Porno nation. While still bristling with hooks, Cinema mixed up the tempos far more than the first two records and was a relatively more downbeat affair. Some interpreted this as the band stalling and failed the appreciate the beauty in those moments of calm. These people probably hoped that Twin Cinema was an aberration and that with their fourth record, they’d return to their breakneck ways. Those people will be disappointed.
Challengers, out next Tuesday, not only finds the New Pornographers again hanging out on the calmer side of things but getting comfortable there. The production is less ’70’s electric guitars and synth-heavy, instead favouring textures and orchestration that far more ’60s in origin. Neko Case is again set to handling the more mid-tempo, melancholic tunes and while Dan Bejar’s contributions are still the perkiest and oddest on the record, even those are less madcap than his past offerings.
But where Challengers flags in the BPM department, it makes up for it in the melodies and the songwriting. It’s slow and stately and almost regal-sounding and while it could probably stand to have just one or two more upbeat numbers, it’s hard to criticize what did make the cut. There’s no immediate standout single, no “Letter From An Occupant”, no “Laws Have Changed” – maybe not even a “Bleeding Hearts Show” but as a complete album it’s a top effort that reinforces Carl Newman and company’s position as one of the finest pop bands around.
NPR has named “Adventures in Solitude” their song of the day and you can stream it there or listen to the whole album below, courtesy of MuchMusic. They kick off their Fall tour next month and stop in at the Phoenix in Toronto on October 21, and to confirm – this is the full band lineup, Dan and Neko included.
Finally, courtesy of Last Gang Records, I’ve got a slew of New Pornography to give away. There’s one grand prize consisting of a poster autographed by the whole band and a copy of Challengers on CD and four runner-up prizes of just the CD. That’s five chances to win! Six if you head over to the Last Gang website and enter their contest for a copy of the Challengers executive edition. To enter the contest over here, email me at contests AT chromewaves DOT net with “I want some new pornography” in the subject line and your full name and mailing address in the body and if your entry makes it past my spam filters, you’re entered in the draw. This contest will close at midnight, August 20 and is only open to residents of the Dominion of Canada.
LAist talks to Blake Sennett of Rilo Kiley. Their new one Under The Black Light is out next week and I’m sorry to have to report that it’s not very good. The lead off track, which you can stream below, is great but the rest of it…? Eh. More on that at a later date. They’re at the Phoenix on September 18.
Some show announcements – Iron & Wine is at the Danforth Music Hall on September 25, the very day of The Shepherd’s Dog‘s release. Vancouver synth-poppers Bella have two dates coming up in Toronto – October 23 at the Horseshoe (that’s a New Music Tuesday which means free) and October 28 at the Drake Underground. Their new record No One Will Know is out September 18. Los Angeles’ Sea Wolf returns for a show at the El Mocambo on November 9 to promote their debut full-length Leaves In The River out September 25 and finally, Caribou have a date at the Opera House on November 10, which should console those who didn’t get tickets to their secret show at the Rivoli on September 30. Andorra is out August 21. And finally, The Acorn will be at The Horseshoe on November 24 – it stands to reason that there’ll be an earlier date with the Wood, Wires & Whiskey tour with Elliott Brood and Plants & Animals – there’s a five day gap in the schedule between Ottawa and London – but I guess nothing’s official there yet. Glory Hope Mountain is out September 25.