Published Apr 27, 2010The title of the New Pornographers' fifth album, Together, implies unity. In reality, however, the Canadian power pop collective has never been more scattered: lead songwriter Carl Newman now lives in New York, while singer Neko Case has spent much of the past decade bouncing between various cities south of the border. Given this geographical separation, as well as the fact that the album was recorded in seven different studios, it's surprising how consistent Together is. More so than anything the band has released, this record sounds like it was mapped out beforehand, and was put together with an ear for sonic and stylistic unity.
For the full experience, click here, where the entire album will be streaming all week from Exclaim.ca.
Picking up where 2007's Challengers left off, the record is another step in the direction of folksy, orchestral pop. Fuzzy guitars and glitzy keyboards are almost entirely absent from the collection, which features largely acoustic instrumentation on nearly every track. The single "Your Hands (Together)" sounds closest to vintage Pornographers, but even it contains an acoustic guitar strumming in between the start-stop explosions of noise.
Just because they've traded in their synthesizers for violins and cellos, don't let that trick you into thinking that the New Pornographers have mellowed out completely. The banjo-laden "Valkyrie and the Roller Disco" is the slowest of the bunch, but the breezy blues licks and soaring vocal harmonies mean that its too damn pretty to be a downer. Elsewhere, the Neko-led waltz "My Shepard" begins as a countrified ballad, but builds up to a triumphant climax thanks to a guitar solo from St. Vincent songstress Annie Clark. Other noteworthy guest appearances on the album come courtesy of Beirut's Zach Condon and Okkervil River front-man Will Sheff.
As always with the New Pornographers, it's the upbeat power pop tunes that steal the show. "The Crash Years" is a giddy sugar rush, its cello riffs lifting the song to a euphoric chorus that's as catchy as anything the band has ever produced. The Dan Bejar-penned "Silver Jenny Dollar" is equally memorable, his boozy slur contrasting effectively with Case's heart-melting harmonies.
These are the moments we'll be waiting for when the New Pornographers take Together on the road starting this spring, including a handful of Canadian dates in June and a hometown show in Vancouver on July 15.
Together will be streaming on Exclaim.ca until May 3.
Stay tuned for these future full-album streams on Exclaim.ca:
Holy Fuck Latin May 4 to May 10
Shad TSOL May 11 to May 17
Bettye Lavette Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook May 18 to May 24
Born Ruffians Say It May 25 to May 31
Tokyo Police Club Champ June 1 to June 7