Much like fellow Canadian super group Broken Social Scene’s Forgiveness Rock Record (QRO review), 2010’s Together is a pivotal moment in the lifetime of The New Pornographers. While the Vancouver octet may not have had as much to recover on their latest effort, 2007’s Challengers (QRO review) surely did not measure up to the earlier success on albums like Twin Cinema and Mass Romantic. As Together unfolds, we find an invigorating, consuming sound coming from a completely rejuvenated band. Not only have The New Pornographers returned to their earlier glory, they may have in fact surpassed it.
As Together kicks off on "The Movies" and "The Crash Years", it becomes clear that the band has reunited their indie rock sound with the power pop atmosphere that seemed unwilling to coexist on Challengers – at least not up to the standards set on previous works. Whereas arrangements on that album focused on a broad sonic landscape, with complex buildups, and somewhat of an overly diverse instrumentation, Together is all about making some small changes that make a big difference. The New Pornographers have cut any notion of excessive artiness or overconfidence, and has instead replaced them with a slightly lighter sound, complete with some classic rock connotations. The band has taken a more laidback approach, allowing them to work out any and all kinks, while extending the potential visible on their last effort. Consequently, Together flourishes in the upbeat confines of a dozen clean cut, yet smooth flowing songs.
This smoothness is mostly due to power-pop and indie rock once again being in sync, and blending beautifully. The New Pornographers also find success by moderating the amount of time each one spends in the spotlight. While they are at their best together – for instance on "What Turns Up In The Dark" and exceptional power ballad "Daughters Of Sorrow" – the album excels in a few other styles as well. Whereas "Your Hands (Together)" explores a purely rock and roll side of the band, they sometimes indulge on purely pop inclined numbers like "Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk" as well.
As previously mentioned, there are notions of a classic rock sound, somewhere inside of the layered pop/rock environment on Together. Perhaps the biggest proponent of this is the move to less distinct vocals, which proves to be an entirely positive quality. A.C. Newman (QRO solo album review) and Neko Case (QRO solo album review) show – like the two major sounds on the album – that two very different styles can sometimes be greater together than they ever could have been apart. The two singers seamlessly intertwine vocals several times – for example, on "Valkyrie and The Roller Disco" – which produces a sound as pleasing as any other on the album. Dan Bejar’s continued ability to shake up any situation for the better proves to be yet another vocal asset.
Though the band hasn’t dramatically changed anything technical, Together produces a noticeably different outcome than Challengers. Somewhere within the refined mix of power-pop and indie rock, as well as the lighter, more vintage sound of this latest album, lays a notion of more oomph. At very least, this is the best New Pornographers album in the last five years, and the added oomph only furthers Together‘s case as being some of their best work of all time.
MP3 Stream: "Valkyrie and The Roller Disco"