For a good Christian girl, what better music to review than The New Pornographers? While their name might make you blush, The New Pornographers emerge unashamed of both their association with Canada (don’t lie, you doubt the Canadian music scene too-Celine Dion? Shania Twain? SUM 41? Really?) or their admiration of Burt Bacharach, whom they acknowledge as a serious influence. There’s nothing better than a band that embraces their identity…and no need to hide them from your parents, because after all, rock and roll is the new pornography (thanks, Jimmy Swaggart).
In 2007, The New Pornographers released Challengers, an album which announces through its movement and unavoidable catharsis that the eight band members have officially synced. What sets them apart is that each song uniquely emphasizes rhythm and harmony, with enough melody to remain extremely accessible, but not so much that we’re bored out of our minds. The music moves, which is more than I can say for most pop music, where after 30 seconds, you’ve been there, you’ve done that, and you know where you’re going (back there again). With each song on Challengers, you’re going somewhere. In fact, you’re going to the epic “Unguided,” in the middle of the album, and the definite climax. In six minutes of brilliance, they crescendo until the final release. And then you can just stop the album because you will feel so free. Just kidding, don’t stop the album, unless it’s to cry a little, but turn it back on again after you’re done sobbing. You need the rest of the album to get your bearings back.
Perhaps the most accessible songs because of their fantastic balance of rhythm, harmony, and melody are “My Rights Versus Yours,” a perfect, seductive first track, and “Myriad Harbour,” which features the most comprehensible lyrics on the entire album. Otherwise, who needs a drumset, or hell, a percussion section, when real string instruments (because we all hate crappy synths) drive “Failsafe” and “All the Things That Go to Make Heaven and Earth”? Answer: not us. I especially love how these lovely band members use their voices as instruments, giving a mystical, haunting effect to “Challengers” and “Adventures in Solitude.” Altogether, it’s refreshing to hear such beautiful harmonies, which must be the benefit of having at least four vocalists.
What do their lyrics mean? Who knows and who cares? They’re absolutely gorgeous even if they don’t make much sense. “Come head-on, full circle, our arms fill with miracles, play hearts, kid, they work well…”
While “Unguided” must be the climax of the album, each song provides its own cathartic effect. Never before have you experienced this kind of release in so many songs on a single album. And this is why we call them The New Pornographers.