9 May 2017

Whiteout Conditions by The New Pornographers

From The Sampler, 7:30 pm on 9 May 2017
The New Pornographers

The New Pornographers Photo: Supplied

Elliott Childs samples new music from Canadian collective The New Pornographers.

Vancouver based band, The New Pornographers are often referred to as a supergroup, though a more accurate description would probably be “a loose collective”. One which just happens to feature the talents of musicians such as Neko Case (whose presence is a boon to any record) and Dan Bejar of Destroyer, though, in the spirit of a loose collective, he doesn't feature on this album. Such an impressive lineup coupled with the talents of songwriter, producer and de facto band leader, Carl “A.C” Newman, has over the years resulted in seven albums of finely crafted indie pop songs.

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Photo: Supplied

Right from the start the band’s Whiteout Conditions pulls no punches. Play Money quickly builds on it’s drums and synth intro and tops it all off with Neko Case’s rich, expressive vocals. Throughout the album, Case and Newman trade lead vocal duties and on songs where Newman takes lead his voice, backed up by the harmonies of Case and keyboardist Kathryn Calder is a winning combination.

'This Is The World Of The Theatre' is one of the record’s high points and is up there with the best songs from the band’s catalogue. There is a lot going on, but whilst this is a full sounding, big production piece, nothing seems lost in the mix. Each vocal part, each synth line and even the hi hat cymbals on the drum kit fit perfectly into place here, creating a soundscape that is fascinating to re-visit and discover new pieces of with each listen.

The New Pornographers manage to sound unlike anyone but themselves on this record. The big production and catchy songwriting of their earlier albums is on display, but such heavy use of synths sets it apart from their back catalogue. It would’ve been easy for the band to make an album that sounded like an 80’s pastiche, but there’s something in the vocal harmonies and the interesting melodies of songs like 'Colosseums' that manages to side step that particular trap.

Newman’s lyrics, though poetic and well-constructed are fairly hard to decipher most of the time. Lines alluding to ancient, destroyed civilisations and the Magna Carter being underwater seem to hint at a sense of anxiety at world political events, though It’d be unfair to label Whiteout Conditions as the New Pornographers “political album”. It’s not stern or serious enough for that. There is a sense of humour that permeates this album. The New Pornographers may have changed their style a bit on this record but they don't sound like a different band. As a loose collective they only get to play together every so often and there is a feeling with each album that just pick up where they left off last time. And when the results are so catchy and deeply layered, that’s not a bad thing at all.

Songs featured: Whiteout Conditions,Play Money, High Ticket Attractions, This Is The World Of The Theatre, Colosseums, Second Sleep.

Whiteout Conditions is available on Concord Records.