Plumbiferous Media

Together - The New Pornographers

May 6th 2010
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Together - The New PornographersThe New Pornographers
Score: 76

Cana­di­an band The New Pornog­ra­phers released their fifth LP, Togeth­er, on Tues­day. Found­ed in 1997 by front­man Carl New­man (also known for his solo work as A.C. New­man as well as as a mem­ber of 90s indie group Zumpano), The New Pornog­ra­phers col­or­ful­ly com­bine rock, indie and pow­er pop to cre­ate their own brand of enthu­si­as­tic sound. Togeth­er fur­ther devel­ops that sound to cre­ate an engag­ing album which, though not per­fect, is clear­ly one of The New Pornog­ra­phers’ bet­ter albums.

Though New­man is nom­i­nal­ly The New Pornog­ra­pher’s lead vocal­ist, the band’s three oth­er singers, all of whom work with the band in between myr­i­ad oth­er projects, are near­ly if not as impor­tant to the band. Through Togeth­er, New­man’s impas­sioned tones can be found tying togeth­er tracks like the album’s debut, “Moves,” while Neko Case lends the coun­try tint of her voice to the bom­bas­tic “Crash Years.” Kathryn Calder pro­vides skilled con­trast to many of New­man’s emo­tive lines, while Dan Bejar man­ages to make his voice sound simul­ta­ne­ous­ly breathy and full-fea­tured, giv­ing “Daugh­ters of Sor­row” its almost-oth­er­world­ly air. For some bands, such an array of vocal­ists would lead to noth­ing more than con­fu­sion. Not so for The New Pornog­ra­phers, which uses each of its tal­ent­ed singers to their great­est poten­tial, cre­at­ing a huge amount of diver­si­ty through Togeth­er

With so many voic­es con­tribut­ing to Togeth­er, it makes sense that the sto­ries told by the album as just as diverse as those telling them. In true New Pornog­ra­phers fash­ion, each track is an abstract take on real­i­ty, skirt­ing the edge between metaphor and non­sense. Togeth­er moves between “Up in the Dark“ ‘s take on secre­cy and dark­ness: “You have secrets but they’re spent / All that kept the lights on when the pow­er went” to “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk“ ‘s love of the word “byzan­tine.” The album is scat­tered with the excel­lent lines that have dis­tin­guished many of The New Pornog­ra­phers’ best tracks, and it is oth­er­wise filled with thought-pro­vok­ing (if occa­sion­al­ly con­fus­ing) lines. 

In addi­tion to four vocal­ists, none of whom have a ten­den­cy to take turns, Togeth­er is chock full of com­pet­ing instru­men­tals, from elec­tric gui­tar to vio­lin to synth, all accom­pa­nied by the ever-present but (sur­pris­ing­ly) sub­dued per­cus­sion. As a result, Togeth­er main­tains a very dense sound, mov­ing between dif­fer­ent instru­men­ta­tions and sec­tions, cre­at­ing an ever-chang­ing sound that rarely becomes stale, yet stalls enough on each clear­ly defined sec­tion, main­tain­ing a ter­rif­ic lev­el of catch­i­ness to top every­thing else off.

This style does, nat­u­ral­ly have its ups and downs, but thank­ful­ly, excel­lent tracks like “Sil­ver Jen­ny Dol­lar” are among the major­i­ty. There are some instances where the extreme den­si­ty of the sound ends up caus­ing every­thing to run togeth­er into a blur­ry, repet­i­tive mess - name­ly “My Shep­ard.” But for the most part, The New Pornog­ra­phers are quite suc­cess­ful at keep­ing blur­ri­ness out of indi­vid­ual tracks; unfor­tu­nate­ly, that blur­ri­ness did appar­ent­ly have to go some­where, and as a result, a num­ber of the tracks on Togeth­er, espe­cial­ly towards the end of the album, do some­times seem to blur together.

There are no par­tic­u­lar prob­lems with Togeth­er. The album in its entire­ty can be fair­ly accu­rate­ly gen­er­al­ized, and how suc­cess­ful each track is depends on how well Togeth­er’s style was imple­ment­ed over the course of those min­utes in par­tic­u­lar. There is not much diver­si­ty of sound, but at the same time, the wide array of tools at the band’s dis­pos­al keep indi­vid­ual aspects of the album quite diverse. There are some excel­lent sec­tions of the album, and a few that are not top notch, but as a whole, Togeth­er is a strong and excit­ing album.

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