I've never really figured out what the songs of the New Pornographers are about. Bandleader Carl Newman writes idiosyncratic, impressionistic verses drawn from (one must assume) personal experiences and tumultuous emotions, but the results often are lyrically abstract. However, this hasn't hampered my enjoyment of this band's glorious, explosive and cathartic power-pop—charmingly obtuse songs carried on the wings of beautifully arranged melodies.
There are few songs more infectious than the lovely first single, "Crash Years," which comes complete with muscular strings and a whistled melody. "Your Hands (Together)" seems to be stuck on permanent repeat in my head and on my CD player, its monster riffs and raucous sing-along lyrics a celebration of big-band art pop.
Fans who may have lamented singer (and former Tucsonan) Neko Case's diminished role on the group's last album, Challengers, in 2007, will rejoice to hear her dominating once again, lending her powerful pipes to the full, open-throated melodies of "Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk" and "My Shepherd," and nailing her duet with Newman on "Valkyrie in the Roller Disco." Singer-songwriter Dan Bejar (the guiding force behind Destroyer) normally contributes a couple of eccentric numbers to each New Pornos album, but he bucks that trend with the surprisingly straightforward "Silver Jenny Dollar." Its concise hooks will smack listeners between the eyes; it has a good beat, and you can dance to it.
Purist fans may complain that nothing the band has done lately tops Twin Cinema or Electric Version, but this one proves they still have the skills to thrill.