For years The New Pornographers have been creating some of the best in power pop music. Ever since 2000’s Mass Romantic, the band has pumped out great albums of pop music. But here we are, a decade after their debut record, and the group is releasing their fifth album. However, a lot has changed in the Pornographers’ style since then, and Together highlights this change fantastically.
The first thing that needs to be said about this album is that it is fundamentally the most rock album that the group has produced to date. Just listen to the first single, “Your Hands (Together),” and hear the powerfully distorted chords that open the track. Second, this album picks up where Challengers left off by incorporating even more orchestral arrangements than its predecessor. With Together, the group has begun to move out of the power pop realm. Sure, a lot of what made their previous work great still remains, but there are elements that were never there before.
Together contains more distorted guitar basis then ever before, with a few solos that might be termed “wailing” when compared to what The New Pornographer’s have produced previously. The instrumental bridge of “Silver Jenny Dollar,” exemplifies the new rock sound, in addition to being one of the standout moments of the album. Of course, there are still those songs where Neko Case takes over the lead vocals, which are always wonderfully tender. Just take a look at the mid-album track “My Shepard.” Once again Case shows off her fantastic vocal chops surrounded by great production with a tender verse followed perfectly by a climactic chorus.
Perhaps the standout point of this album, however, is the groups continued use of heavy orchestration along with their new rockier sound. The album opener, “Moves,” begins with a powerful guitar/cello unison riff, which is quickly filled in by lush, staccato violins and violas. This is a trend throughout the album; numerous other tracks make use of strong cello parts doubling a bass or a distorted guitar. If you look at the closing track, “We End Up Together,” when the song picks up around the 2-minute mark there is a guitar/cello melody that is very reminiscent of the one that opened the album. This union between the orchestra and the traditional rock instruments is all over the album, such as the lead riff in “A Bite Out of My Bed.”
So here they are a decade later, and The New Pornographers are still keeping things interesting. By sonically experimenting with new sounds, the group has crafted an album the will keep long-time fans interested, while still being, at its heart, highly accessible pop songs for new listeners.
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-G
Key Tracks: “Moves”, “Silver Jenny Dollar”, “We End Up Together”
Recommended if you like: A.C. Newman, Spoon, and The Decemberists.
W = Poor
W-P = Fair
W-P-G = Great
W-P-G-U = An instant classic!