Monday, July 12, 2010
New Pornographers - Together (2010)
From the cello intro off lead track "Moves", I knew The New Pornographers fifth studio album Together was going to be epic. A bit mellower than their previous albums (Twin Cinema's hyperactivity included), they still maintain the same energetic, creative, and body moving qualities of all the other albums. "Moves" is an example of orchestrated pop rock done right. Beginning with the aforementioned cello intro before violins, guitars, drums, and the like join in, followed by the intermingling of voices (though Carl Newman serves as chief vocalist) that form the backbone of the band's trademark sound. Next is "Crash Years" featuring Neko Case on vocals. Power chord laden "Your Hands (Together)" is one of the first song on the album without a featured solo vocalist. It also brings the album a bit more uptempo from the calmer two preceeding tracks. "Silver Jenny Dollar", penned and sung by Dan Bejar, brings the tempo down a bit and adds a bit of a retro rock feel. "Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk", probably my favorite song on the album, has Carl Newman, Kathryn Calder, and Neko Case's enchanting interweaving vocals alternating with extensive instrumental breaks combining to make a toe-tapping but still emotional masterpiece. "My Shepard", featuring Neko Case on vocals, manages to be solemn, uplifting, and nostalgic all at the same time. Its probably the most balladic track on the album but still manages to keep the album moving and is full of tons of these climatic little moments where the mood changes, the band's playing gets louder, and the listener might find themselves letting out a contented sigh. Dan Bejar's "If You Can't See My Mirrors" brings back that retro rock feel and wistful reflection. "Up in the Dark" follows in pretty much the same mood as the previous track but with a little more motion and featuring the other band members more heavily. "Valkyrie In The Roller Disco" is the most stripped down I've ever heard The New Pornographers. Consisting of mainly a keyboard, the ever-present myriad of voices, and a distant sounding guitar with some maracas thown in for good measure. "A Bite Out Of My Bed" fills in all the silence created in the last track tastefully throwing in everything but the kitchen sink to create an upbeat pop gem. Dan Bejar's last contribution to the album, "Daughter of Sorrow" starts out with incredibly high energy before becoming lilting and almost-melancholic-yet-not-quite. It's has this floating feel, assisted by the wordless chorus. Album ender "We End Up Together" is the longest track on the album at almost 6 minutes and combines almost everything awesome that happened on the album. Instrumental breaks, string flourishes, clustered vocals behind Newman's lead ones, and featuring the return of the cello licks. The track starts of simply and grows in scale, reaching a clap inducing intensity before its sudden end.
Together, as an album is pretty amazing. I found myself listening to pretty much every song on it repetitively. Really that's all you can ask of an album. To have each song on to carry their own weight and now just consist of a couple key songs while the rest serves as filler. The album is made all the more better by its serving up something new in the form of more strings and brass and a mellower sound while also managing to still sound like a natural progression of band that's been around for awhile. The band's powerpop energy isn't lost, even in the most calm of tracks and the aids the album's cohesiveness while keeping it from putting you to sleep. Interesting to note is that Annie Clark aka St. Vincent, Will Shelf of Okkervill River, and The Dap Kings assisted on the album, but you barely notice their contributions. They blend in so seemlessly, if I hadn't read they were on the album, I wouldn't have even known.
Hear what the album sounds like with the music video for the album's second single "Crash Years" directed by the band's own Blaine Thurier: