Published Aug 22, 2014On the New Pornographers' last couple of albums, the Vancouver pop collective dabbled in organic-sounding chamber pop lushness to mixed results; Brill Bruisers is a resounding return to form — and not just because it's their most upbeat album in nearly a decade.
Certainly, the album has its ample share of band leader Carl Newman's signature power-pop anthems — cuts like "Brill Bruisers" and "Dancehall Domine" have hooks that would sound right at home on Electric Version or Twin Cinema — but the best moments come when the group venture into new, more synth-focused territory: the slinky groove of the Neko Case-fronted "Champions of Red Wine" is flecked with twinkling synth arpeggiations, and the Kathryn Calder-led "Another Drug Deal of the Heart" is a gorgeously simple three-chord ditty in the vein of the Magnetic Fields. The biggest departure is the collection's best song, as "Backstairs" sports haunting melodies and a vocoder refrain that grows increasingly triumphant in its final passage.
Newman isn't the only one stretching his wings here. Songwriting foil Dan Bejar is uncharacteristically upbeat and pop-friendly on the urgently surging "War on the East Coast" and "Born with a Sound," the latter of which features a memorably dramatic vocal cameo from Black Mountain singer Amber Webber.
For fans of the New Pornographers, Brill Bruisers is the best-case scenario: an album that captures the spirit of the group's classic work while simultaneously pushing into new territory. Newman himself says it best on "Wilde Eyes," when he sings, "I swear I/ See my former glory/ Still burning/ It had every intent of returning." On Brill Bruisers, the band's glory days have returned.
Read our recent Timeline on the New Pornographers here. (Last Gang)