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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