The New Pornographers: Together

Artist: The New Pornographers

Title: Together
Release date: May 4
Label: Matador

For me, the equation's always been real simple when it comes to the indie-pop group The New Pornographers: songs with Neko Case taking the vocal reins = yes; songs with the wanna-be British dude singing = maybe. Well, maybe it's not that simple, but it's close.

Case is one of my favorite artists of the past decade, and I hate to see her abundant talents relegated to backing vocals or harmonizer for the wanna-be British guy. My other big problem with The New Pornographers is that these Canadians can write sharp pop songs (with nuance) in their sleep, yet they continue to take the indie route with their "smart" pop. Fine, you don't want to "sell out" (whatever that means anymore). But you're doing more harm than good by not going for mass appeal, leaving mass-appeal pop continually clogged with terrible music.  

So, what about this record? The equation holds true. The Case-sung songs got me hummin', and the ones by the wanna-be British guy left me a little cold. And, sure, this a strictly a matter of personal preference, but I'd like to hear more power in my power pop next time out, kind of like they had cooking on 2005's Twin Cinemas (a superior album in every way, in my opinion). I'm still waiting for this band to conjure the mile-wide hook that will put them over the top.

In short, Together is loaded with expertly written, performed, and produced brainy pop songs. The harmonies are great, the lyrics are solid and vivid, and the arrangements are interesting and fairly compelling. Fans of The New Pornographers will not be disappointed, but I can't see Together initiating many new fans. Like me, they'll probably wonder, where's the hit?

Best song: "My Shepherd," which would not sound out of place on a Neko Case solo record.
Rotation: Medium
Deja Vu: George Harrison fronting Abba.
I'd rather listen to: Cheap Trick
Grade: B-

"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.

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