Fire Note Says: The New Pornographers are consistently great.
Album Review: The New Pornographers have returned with a new album by the name of Whiteout Conditions. It is unique in that it is the first album that the band has released without the contributions of Dan Bejar, who is the unofficial mad scientist for the band. That means that Carl Newman and Neko Case have taken the reins, making this the tightest album that The New Pornographers have released to date.
What Bejar has contributed to the New Pornographers is both lyrical and musical experimentation. The edge with which he writes is missing on Whiteout Conditions. Newman and Case are power pop wizards, and that energy crackles throughout the album. Heavy with synthesizer and the vocals of both (they alternate lead and backing vocals on most songs), the tracklist does sometimes get weighed down with sameness.
The two tracks that hit closest to the mark are the title track and album closer “Avalanche Alley.” Both are similar in that they have an unrelenting pace that induce an involuntary head bob. Newman’s lyrics remain as opaque as ever, and Case’s voice adopts a sense of urgency that play well with those words. “Second Sleep” sounds like the band’s attempt to experiment, making it one of the more interesting tracks on the album. However, the vocal effects and halting production can’t keep it from turning into a typical New Pornographers song.
The New Pornographers, now seven albums in, have been remarkably consistent for almost twenty years. Part of what has kept their sound fresh for so long was the presence of three strong principals; the loss of Bejar on this album is sharply felt. Instead of feeling fresh, many of these songs felt like generic singles that could’ve come off of Mass Romantic. With such a long string of success, it’s easy to forgive a good-but-not-great album. Here’s hoping they capture some magic next time around.
Key Tracks: “Avalanche Alley” / “Second Sleep” / “Whiteout Conditions”
Artists With Similar Fire: The Decemberists / Broken Social Scene / The Shins
The New Pornographers Website
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– Reviewed by Matthew Heiner
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