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FUV's New Dig: The New Pornographers

by Darren DeVivo
A A
photo by Chris Buck

The New Pornographers
Brill Bruisers
Matador Records

The New Pornographers are an eight member collective of musicians who have been together for over fifteen years. Their latest work is a strong, new album that looks back to great songwriting from the past and filters this classic pop through their contemporary, indie rock vision. The new album, Brill Bruisers, is the sixth studio effort from The New Pornographers and their first since 2010’s Together.

Upon first seeing the title of the album, you are immediately reminded of the Brill Building, a building in New York City which housed the music industry offices where some of pop music’s great writers worked. We’re talking the likes of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Neil Diamond, Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, Neil Sedaka and so many more. Brill Bruisers doesn’t necessarily sound like an album created in direct response to these great artists, but the pop sensibilities displayed by The New Pornographers in the past, seem to shine with greater luster here; like the vintage gems that came before. The songs on Brill Bruisers are not just your basic, indie pop fare. They are driving, upbeat songs that maintain their high energy. The band’s principal songwriter is A.C. Newman and his intentions for this album were to come up with nothing but smart songs that packed a punch; perhaps a punch that could leave a bruise. As a result, there aren’t any meandering melodies or slow tempos on Brill Bruisers, just energized pop confections, delivered in the trademark big, brash sound that The New Pornographers are known for.

Even though A.C. Newman wrote the majority of the songs on Brill Bruisers, assisted in the album’s production and is one of the lead vocalists, other members of the band also played important roles in the creation and execution of the music. Dan Bejar, who is the frontman of the band Destroyer, also sings lead and contributes three of his compositions to the album. The band’s bass player, John Collins, is the primary producer of Brill Bruisers. Then, there’s vocalist Neko Case, quite possibly the most recognizable name in The New Pornographers due to her successful solo career. Joining them are Blaine Thurier, Kathryn Calder, Kurt Dahle and Todd Fancey.

Listening to Brill Bruisers is like an exhilarating ride on a roller coaster. It moves fast and loud, with thrills flying at you around every turn. There are plenty of familiar moments in the songs that are reminiscent of things experienced in the past, like a riff conjuring up thoughts of the Electric Light Orchestra (“Champions Of Red Wine”, “Fantasy Fools” and “Marching Orders”) and moods that harken to vintage Alan Parsons Project and a contemporaries like Stars (“Backstairs”). Whether it’s the wall of sound punch of the album’s title track, which opens the album, the sweetness of “Wide Eyes” or the pop stomp of “Dancehall Domine”, this is modern indie rock that tips its cap to great song craft from the past while delivering a modern, power pop punch that leaves a neon bruise.

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