The New Pornographers are a democracy of individually talented musicians, each with his or her distinct contribution to the band. All members, with the except of Kathryn Calder (niece of founder A.C. Newman) who joined in 2005, were prominent players in Vancouver’s indie rock scene before the inception of The New Pornographers and have maintained successful solo careers. Together, they are a force to be reckoned with and enjoyed. Few bands consistently produce literate pop-rock at this level.
The New Pornographers’ 2007 release, Challengers, felt a bit like a side-step for the group, featuring a mellower mood; Neko Case’s role was limited or at least muted. Together is a return to the form of the band’s earliest releases; it brims with exuberant melodies, loads of energy, is stuffed with instrumentation of all kinds, and features loads of intricate harmonies. Neko Case is back to singing lead, duet, or harmonies on nearly every track, a bonus in that her voice blends so well with A.C. Newman’s vocals.
Songwriting is handled mostly by Newman who wrote 9 of the tracks. The other 3 are the product of Dan Bejar. Despite this it’s clear these songs are a collaborative effort thanks to the myriad talent in the band. Each individual brings something unique to the recording process that helps form each song. Being a literate group the lyrics are full of details and word play even though the message may be oblique. You’ll have no trouble loosing yourself in the swirling melodies that veer off at strange angles, a specialty of both this band and the individual work of Newman and Case. There is an almost staccato beat to the songs; halting rhythms create surprising deviations in mid melody. “Sweet Talk” exemplifies this approach as clipped hand claps drop into a crescendo of guitar, keyboard, and drums. The ballad “My Shepherd” featuring Neko Case, offers more punch than any song you’ll hear on any of Case’s solo releases. “Moves” the opening track, establishes the high energy of this album. Electric guitars are evenly matched with cello and this time out it’s the chorus of voices and piano that keep the sporadic rhythm. Dips and upswings pop up when you least expect it, creating a sense of adventure as you travel through these songs. Stand out tracks include “Your Hands (Together),”
The current line-up of The New Pornographers along side Newman, Bejar, and Case are Blaine Thurier, John Collins, Kurt Dahle, and Kathryn Calder. Guest musicians include Will Sheff (Okkervil River), Zach Condon of Beirut, The Dap Kings horn section, and guitarist Annie Clark. Although each member of this band has created stellar work on their own, there is something new and magical happens when they combine their talents. Together is the proof.