October 03, 2014
As the evolution of any band goes, there are ups and there are downs. With AC Newman calling the New Pornographers’ seventh studio album, Brill Bruisers, “a celebration record,”—and, indeed, it certainly feels like one—the latest addition to the Vancouver supergroup’s catalogue should be considered an emphatic up.
Produced by Pornos bassist John Collins (he also co-produced the first three Pornos albums) and Newman, the 12-track collection showcases the band’s signature quirks, lush arrangements, and propensity for expansive indie anthems.
Shedding some of the baroque orchestration found on Together (2010), Brill Bruisers finds the group experimenting with electronic influences, resulting in something far dancier than ever before, if that’s even possible?
If 2007’s Challengers—the band’s infamous detour into mellower terrain— taught them anything, it’s that fans prefer the Pornos fun, fast and peppy. If the group is listening to its fans—and I believe that they are—Brill Bruisers is delivering on the promise of earlier albums on energy and spirit.
The record exudes fun ten-fold, like a shotgun shell filled with glitter and confetti blasting over a dancefloor. Take for instance “War on the East Coast,” whose chugging riffs dance alongside wonky programming while Bejar casually repeats: “Blondes, brunettes, paper jets.”
Bejar, by the way, sounds as elegant as ever, especially on “Spidyr,” a remake of “Spider” from Swan Lake’s album Enemy Mine, which gets a big, bold reworking.
Elsewhere, Neko Case shines on “Champions of Red Wine,” which features sparkly embellishments and Case’s lush vocals that are gorgeously accentuated by her warm roots-inflected strums.
AC Newman’s dominant contribution reflects a cheerier time for the songwriter, particularly with the revved-up “Fantasy Fools” and infectious rocker “Dancehall Domine,” both of which demand hyper footwork.
There will always be huge expectations for a band like the New Pornographers—a demand to constantly evolve without isolating hardcore fans. To be sure, the Pornos may never capture the true glory days of their first three albums, but that’s not a bad thing. With Brill Bruisers another chapter unfolds, and there’s so much more to discover.
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