New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers (Last Gang)
The New Pornographers once had a song called "Sing Me Spanish Techno." This is their first album that could actually be accused of doing so.
It’s not that the New Pornographers have gone EDM, exactly. But it’s not at all hard to imagine some Euro DJ taking these tracks and having a field day with them, creating club bangers in the process.
Lead songwriter A.C. Newman has always employed new wave synths in his power pop; on his most recent solo album, Shut Down the Streets, he populated his folkie singer/songwriter side with spacy keyboards seemingly borrowed from ’70s sci-fi soundtracks. Here, the synths sound borrowed from Tegan & Sara’s recent makeover (a duo who was produced by New Pornographer associates John Collins and Dave Carswell before they blew up as a pop act). Brill Bruisers has plenty of chugging, metronomic eighth-note guitar riffs and four-on-the-floor beats underscoring the baroque vocal arrangements and layered rock instrumentation.
Other than those cosmetics, Brill Bruisers continues to exploit the wealth of talent in this band: not just Newman’s songwriting but that of Destroyer’s Dan Bejar, whose three songs here are the only ones, oddly enough, to feature an entirely incongruous harmonica, even on the ambient, beatless techno of Spidyr. Kathryn Calder, whose solo albums the world seems to be ignoring at their own peril, continues to carve out her own real estate in an already crowded band that happens to feature Neko Case as resident show-stealer.
That wealth of talent, however, also invites comparisons—and A.C. Newman, Case, Destroyer and Calder have all put out solo records in the last two years that tower over almost everything they’ve ever done. Imagine if you could successfully argue that solo albums by the four Beatles were better than The White Album and Abbey Road: in 2014, a new New Pornographers record has even more to live to than any one band’s discography. By that near-impossible standard, Brill Bruisers takes a back seat; on first impression, it would seem strength in numbers doesn’t necessarily apply this time out—more Travelling Wilburys than Beatles. Yet the glory of their combined vocals—which are distributed more evenly this time out, with the normally selfish Bejar even duetting with Calder—is still more than thrilling, and essential listening. (Aug. 28)
Download: “Champions of Red Wine,” “War on the East Coast,” “Wide Eyes”