Review Summary: A brilliant and insanely catchy pop album from the Canadian indie supergroup.
The New Pornographers are a Canadian indie supergroup comprised of notable talents who all excel in what they do. The group is lead by Carl Newman who is joined by the likes of Dan Bejar, Neko Case, John Collins, Kurt Dahle and Blaine Thurier. Unlike other supergroups, The New Pornographers have a sense of cohesiveness in their sound. Each member adds something to the group, without being too radically individual from the overall sound of the band. Carl Newman, who writes eleven out of the fourteen tracks, has an impeccable knack for creating incredibly catchy pop songs that are wholly original and subtle. In other words, Newman crafts songs that are immediately accessible upon first listen, but also get better with repeated listens. This is the ultimate summarization of Twin Cinema. The album is a perfect display of indie-pop at its finest. No song is ignorable as each do their best to vie for the title of best track.
There is an almost unpredictable path that the vocal melodies tend to take. When listening to the radio-friendly mainstream pop, you know where the singer is going next. Carl Newman, Neko Case and Dan Bejar however, never seem to go where you think they are going to go. However the places they end up going, are generally much better then where you thought it was going to go. This fact is most evident on the absolutely beautiful The Bleeding Heart Show, a personal favourite, with the at first jarring but ultimately rewarding vocal and musical shifts ending with a heartbreaking coda. The vocal melodies are like getting lost on the way to the movie theater, but discovering the most beautiful, serene forest ever seen. This is also helped by the Dan Bejar lead deviations in the album. Jackie, Dressed in Cobras, Broken Breads and Streets of Fire are the three songs on the album penned by Bejar. His voice is certainly unique, and those who are familiar with Destroyer will noticed that Bejar has reeled in his eccentricities a bit and this makes for some of the catchiest vocals on the album (try and get the vocal hook at the end of Broken Breads out of your head.) Dan Bejar’s songs are certainly different from Newman’s, however it is in a refreshing way, rather than a distracting one. Then we come to Neko Case who has a simply amazing voice which is best displayed on These Are the Fables, a song that seems like a vehicle specifically built for Case’s expressive voice. The vocals are great, however one should not look away from the instrumental portion of the band.
Kurt Dahle’s drumming is possibly the best on any indie-pop album I have ever heard. Always creative and interesting in both keeping time and his flashy fills, best displayed in the coda of The Bleeding Heart Show and the intro to Jackie, Dressed in Cobras. John Collins’ bass likes to keep things simple but is always there to keep everything moving and in order. The rollicking bass on Star Bodies, which also produces a great cascading banjo finale, is the perfect example of Collins’ strong and sensible bass playing. The album also produces some wonderful instrumentation. Ebow, mandolin, melodion, cello, trumpet, xylophone, harmonica, pump organ and slide guitar all give great texture the core hooks and melodies of the songs, especially on the lovely Streets of Fire and album closer Stacked Crooked. However as mentioned before, the musical standout in this album is Kurt Dahle on the drums. It gives climax to songs like The Bleeding Heart Show and Streets of Fire, and gives an added flavour to other numbers like Jackie, Dressed in Cobras. Though the vocal melodies are the primary focus on the album, I couldn’t imagine this album with just any old drummer, doing predictable rhythms or fills. Dahle is possibly the most unheralded star of the album.
I strongly recommend this album to anyone. All of the songs on the album have the ability to get stuck in your head, which makes this a perfect indie-pop album. The album also gets better with each listen, as each time presents a new layer that you can discover, a new way to listen to a song. To put it simply, this album is a shimmering, brilliant, concise, and catchy masterpiece from the Canadian supergroup known as the New Pornographers.