Tuesday, 21 June 2011

100 LPs Shortlist #11: The New Pornographers - "Twin Cinema"

Who says a supergroup can't produce a great record? Who says they can't produce numerous great records?

By definition, a supergroup usually is a gross collection of over-inflated musician egos that collapses under the weight of its own hype (Blind Faith, I'm looking at you). They usually struggle to create a decent set of songs together, all the while being mindful of justfiying their own existence as a legitimate band as opposed to an ego trip.

Canada's New Pornographers have been labelled a "supergroup", however, justifying that tag is sketchy. About the only way they meet the criteria is that all the members are moonlighting in other indie bands or are working on their own solo careers. The band is usually a six piece, featuring alt-country, red-headed bombshell Neko Case, fellow red-head A.C. (Carl) Newman, (from Zumpano), John Collins (from the Evaporators), Dan Bejar (from Destroyer), Kathryn Calder (from Immaculate Machine) and Kurt Dahle on drums.

The reason I hesitate to apply the supergroup label to them is that in their music, these musos genuinely leave their egos at the door and come together to play their instruments in an effort to make the best music possible, as opposed to having a excuse to show off. With a number of great songwriters on board their music is beautifully written and pperformed, lushly textured and layered with a sound that always reveals something new with each listen. The melodic gifts of the members are amazing.

I heard about these guys while living in remote Western Australia a few years ago. With nothing good on radio and TV, being in the middle of nowhere, with a record store or two with nothing beyond the basic stock that every record store has (read: general crap), how do you discover cool new music?

Thank you, eMusic.com.

Unfortunately now they have blocked Australian users, but back then, their list of eMusic Summer Essentials was inspiring listening. I bought "Twin Cinema" on a chance based on the review I read on this list, and while it didn't grab me first off, after repeated listenings the real charms reveal themselves.

Neko Case's crystal clear voice lifts songs like "The Bleeding Heart Show" and "Bones of an Idol" into transcendent territory, while "Use It" simply just kicks butt, with some choruses that are just out of this world. The songs here are uniformly strong and there's hardly a bad track here.

This is arguably their most consistent and strongest record to date. The two follow-ups "Challengers" and especially "Together" are also highly recommended, but this is the first high point of a still burgeoning career.


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