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The New Pornographers

The New Pornographers (photo by Jenny Jimenez, PR)

The New Pornographers (photo by Jenny Jimenez, PR)


The New Pornographers
Whiteout Conditions
Concord Records

Over the past twenty years, the New Pornographers have crafted a signature sound despite having many moving parts. With their seventh album, Whiteout Conditions, the band has fine-tuned their approach and created something that might have seemed unlikely at one time.

Since releasing their debut, 2000's Mass Romantic, the New Pornographers have made music that's stylistically and texturally diverse, due to both the size of the band, which ranges from seven to eight members, and their other artistic endeavors. Most of the bandmates moonlight as solo artists or work with other bands; the musical hodgepodge of this shifting lineup gives the New Pornographers a trademark sound.

On Whiteout Conditions, the New Pornographers sought to make an album that frontman and co-founder A.C. Newman hoped would be more cohesive, pushing further on what they accomplished on 2014’s Brill Bruisers. Again, their lineup shifted: longtime drummer Kurt Dahle, left the band after the release of Brill Bruisers and was replaced by drummer and vocalist Joe Seiders. More importantly, the band recorded Whiteout Conditions without one of their core members, guitarist and vocalist Dan Bejar, who was already committed to a new project by his own band, Destroyer. 

One thing that hasn’t changed is the New Pornographers' big sound and their penchant for drafting smart, catchy, and danceable pop songs. Whiteout Conditions relies heavily on synths and pounding rhythms throughout the majority of its songs. Despite being down one male voice (Bejar), the band still has three singers and they are evenly utilized on this album: Newman, indie pop darling Neko Case, and keyboardist and guitarist Kathryn Calder, who is Newman’s niece.

Even more here than in the past, there is a greater emphasis on harmonies and achieving a stylistic consistency. There is a heavy reliance on synths and rhythms that hold the entire album together, especially on songs like incredibly catchy title track, “High Ticket Attractions,” “Play Money,” and the infectious “This Is The World Of The Theater,” which makes good use of those soaring harmonies.

The pace slows on “We’ve Been Here Before,” where Newman, Case and Calder unite over a grandiose bed of swirling keyboards. On the album’s finale, “Avalanche Alley,” the pace surges back, bringing matters to a driving close.

Newman wrote all the songs on the album and he worked with bassist John Collins on the production. In addition to Newman, Case, Calder, Collins and newcomer Seiders, the New Pornographers also feature keyboardist Blaine Thurier and lead guitarist Todd Fancey.

The New Pornographers didn’t make any substantial modifications on Whiteout Conditions, but they did choose to keep the music within certain parameters. The Vancouver-bred supergroup still packs a lethal punch, hitting their target here with pure pop finesse.