If music were the only factor that determined popularity, The New Pornographers could very well be the biggest band in the world. They have irresistible hooks in spades from two gifted songwriters, and a quartet of talented singers. But, alas, there is no teenage sexpot and that is why they will just have to settle for being really great. They have always done their own thing but, this time, it appears there is an effort to further invade the mainstream.
"Brill Bruisers" plays and it's everything one would come to expect from a New Pornographers album: downward strumming, wonderful harmonies, a great pop song. All of sudden, with "Champions of Red Wine", there's this electronic element permeating and swaddling the familiar alto of Neko Case. Many times, electronics are used by bands as a cheap trick that doesn't add anything substantial. This is not one of those times as the blend with Carl Newman's song structure works almost too well, as if they needed another infectious component. It would actually be interesting to hear if the back catalog would work with such enhancements.
Dan Bejar's contributions to New Pornos' records are almost always the oddballs but his three tracks fit in perfectly with this stylistic shift. He offers a re-working of a song he penned for Swan Lake called "Spyder". "Born With a Sound", with excellent vocal accents from Amber Webber of Black Mountain, ranks right up with his very best songs for any of his musical outlets. Newman also improves upon an original with the superior sequel, "Another Drug Deal of the Heart" ("A Drug Deal of the Heart" was the b-side to 2011's "Moves" single").
Newman's songs are front and center but he saves or shares the most exciting moments for Case or with Kathryn Calder. This is hardly new but it does seem more obvious than usual. The album is almost a direct response to their 2007 record, "Challenges". They are equally astounding but where as "Challengers" was largely acoustic and reflective, "Brill Bruisers" is positively jubilant. With their sixth album, the New Pornographers are every bit as essential a listen as ever.
The band comes to town on Nov 14 at the Riv, supported by the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Two fantastic bands at the height of their game will be a can't-miss.