After the release of Challengers it seemed like people were ready to disregard The New Pornographers altogether. Poor reviews for an album couldn’t keep this band down though, as they’ve returned with their fifth record, Together. It stands in the same ground as a great deal of the rest of the last record, but it pushes the rock element a little bit further, brightening the sound a bit, just making things louder overall.
Opening moments on “Move” have that shredded guitar sound you’ve come to expect from an AC Newman penned song, but with a little strings to match the top of it all. Throw in the bounce and those pop-perfect vocals (girl harmonies thrown in for good measure) and you’ve got a great opening track. But, you get the perfect mix when you move into the next tune, “Crash Years.” It’s fronted by the female force this time around, though the jangly guitars and orchestral accompaniment aren’t anything to shake a stick at. Then you find yourself at “Your Hands (Together),” finding the band employing all their old tricks. A rolling drumbeat, guitars strumming off beat, and the combination of male/female vocals. Together starts out great, and it doesn’t seem to slow down.
However, the band switch gears a bit by going to a Dan Bejar penned number. He’s written three songs for this record, and each one is remarkable in its own right. Not sure if it’s Bejar’s odd vocal delivery, or just his craftsmanship, but his songs always stand out in The New Pornographers sound. “If You Can’t See My Mirrors” is probably the best of the three Bejar tracks, using some brilliant swirling guitar melodies to balance out Dan’s vocals. The light female vocal beneath his adds a perfect touch as well. Don’t skip out on “Daughter of Sorrow” as it’s reminiscent of Dan’s work with Destroyer, but instead of him working solo, he uses the posse at hand to expand his own distinctive sound.
While the album does slow down a bit right in the middle, it’s not entirely a detractor. Perhaps the sequencing comes as a bit of a shock, as you can find better places to fit these quieter moments, but “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” and “My Shepard” showcase the band’s ace in the hole. Female vocals have long been a part of the groups dynamic, and they come into perfect play in the middle of this album. Fans of Neko Case and Kathryn Calder will appreciate the fact that the girls get to carry their own weight for a sustained period of time.
One of the strengths of the band, and Together, is that they seem to have returned to uniting all their forces into one cohesive product. “Up in the Dark” is a powerful song, using the dual vocal approach, and a stomping rhythm to move it along. Even when the song takes turns for the swirly pop moments, you can’t help but feel that this is the band at its best. While “Valkyrie in the Roller Disco” might seem a bit odd, really just using the vocal approach of the band to make its point, it really is a good song, though it might not fit that well with this collection. So they close it with “We End Up Together,” making the perfect statement for the album’s closing. Everyone seems to play a part in this song, fitting the whole band, well, “together.” Seeing such sentiment makes you appreciate the effort on Together all the more, and it demonstrates to us all that as long as The New Pornographers put in all the pieces, they can create great records just like the one we find here.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/new_pornographers_your_hands_together.mp3]
Download: New Pornographers – Your Hands Together [MP3]