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Review

Canadian group produces a variety of albums

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May 7, 2010

The Canadian supergroup The New Pornographers seem to have the incredible knack for exploring new musical avenues, always crafting and reworking a mix of bouncy melodies and quirky hooks so that no album sounds exactly the same as their last. “Together,” the band’s fifth installment, is filled with psychedelic riffs, topsyturvy piano and all-around, multi-instrumentalist talent to showcase.

The New Pornographers are headed by Carl “A.C.” Newman, who is backed up by, among others, Neko Case and Dan Bejar of Destroyer. These three leading members have released more than 20 studio albums under their names. Here, we see them combine to explore a number of new questions about life, and the answers they come to are interesting. Filled with trademark bright and frantic rhythms—featuring elements of chamber pop and prog-rock—the overall tone of “Together” is somewhat more muted than in years past. “Your Hands Together” illustrates this with it’s somber mood—Newman and Catherine Calder sing a duet in which they explore family relations, musing about the relationship between “togetherness” and mortality.

From start to finish, the vocals are complex, emotionally-charged, never lacking in creativity or authenticity.

“My Shepard,” features a slow, haunting guitar twang in the background, which compliments Case’s silky crooning flawlessly. The French-Canadian influence can also be seen here by the mixed-language line, “Pas de rock and roll pour moi.”

“Valkyrie In The Roller Disco,” features an interesting mix of dueling banjos and pianos. The whirlwind of voices and instrumentals is extremely inviting—a progressive rock number that builds steadily for some time, but never really fully accelerates. The highlight of the album is undoubtedly the lead-single, “Crash Years,” in which Newman and Case’s voices collide to form a memorable chorus, with guitar backing reminiscent of George Harrison. At times, “Together” may feel like a smorgasbord of separate sounds that, collectively, never really add up to anything noteworthy, However, this may be both the Pornos’ most difficult and ear-pleasing album to date—no easy feat. Due to the diverse range of musical tastes sampled here (not to mention the surprising number of musicians involved), “Together” may be an LP best appreciated after multiple listens.

Some will look at “Together” as a disappointment after the peaks of their previous two releases, “Mass Romantic” and “Twin Cinema,” but it offers an interesting new look into the minds of the acclaimed group.

Andrew Phelps is an alumnus of UW-River Falls.