Sunday, September 02, 2007

All The Old Showstoppers

Looks like all the indie pop veterans are lining up with great albums this year. Now joining the Apples in Stereo and Fountains of Wayne we have Canada's New Pornographers, and their 4th cd, Challengers, may be the best of the bunch. Hell, I'll go out on a limb and call it the New Ps' best album yet. Kind of a conservative choice, sure, as it's by far their least ambitious and far-reaching album, but also their most listenable. While they've tossed off a non-stop barrage of breathtaking singles over the past seven years, frontman A.C. Newman's need to push the boundaries of pop, repeatedly adding one more synth and one more vocal and one more chord and one more key signature change often turns otherwise hook-filled tracks into too-busy-by-half oddities. Which, at least for me, can make the New Pornographer listening experience almost as headache-inducing as it is joyful.

Not the case here. The songs are great, clever and fresh without going over the top. Of course, the absence of extremes means even the best songs don't quite reach the heights of, say, Electric Version's "The Laws Have Changed" (though not many bands get the chance to record a song so face-meltingly fan-fucking-tastic more than once) or Twin Cinema's "Bleeding Heart Show." But it also means you can listen to the album start-to-finish without wincing. Besides, there's no shortage of instant winners -- starting with the one-two punch of "My Rights Vs. Yours" and "All The Old Showstoppers," the latter of which is one of their catchiest tunes to date, with yet another hook to die for. Even secondary songwriter Dan Bejar, whom I've always found the band's weaker singer/songwriter, offers up the superb sing-spoken "Myriad Harbour," another insanely great tune.

Bottom line? An early contender for album of the year, and a must-own for lovers of dense, shimmering, exciting indie pop.

And while you wait, how about that old video for "The Laws Have Changed"? Best video in the freakin' universe, I guarantee you. Just about.

And, hey, for something recent, here's the new single live on Letterman:

p.s. Ok, fine, I'm a red-blooded straight American male, so I can't mention the New Pornographers without proclaiming that I would walk to the ends of the Earth for Neko Case. But, let me just say, after this album I might do the same for A.C. Newman as well.


Post a Comment

<< Home