Friday, September 16, 2005

New Pornographers - Twin Cinema

I like pop music. I like it a lot actually. But the term 'pop music' means different things to people. To most of you, if I say pop music, you think Britney Spears, N*Sync or the Backstreet Boys. But if you've ever studied music academically, pop music is anything not classical or folk (folk as in Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and the like). So the Ramones are pop, Led Zeppelin is pop, Slayer is pop, etc. But then theres the third version of pop music; the music geek's pop music. Smart pop music. Simon and Garfunkle. The Beatles. The Beach Boys. The Lovin Spoonful. Ben Kweller. Sondre Lerche. Randy Newman. They Might Be Giants. Ben Folds. Jack Johnson. Toothpick. Badly Drawn Boy. To me this is 'Smart Pop Music,' it's melodically pleasing, happy sounding, easy sounding but not simple. Music that makes you smile. I love this shit.

The New Pornographers fit right in. From
Imagine a loose consortium of musicians who combine the lilting melodies of the Zombies with the driving hooks of the Kinks. Sure, it's what all the kids are doing these days, but Vancouver's New Pornographers are one of the few--along with the Shins--to get the balance right. Their third full-length offers more of the same smart power-pop that made Mass Romantic and Electric Version instant classics, plus some surprising new moves. As singer/songwriter Carl Newman (The Slow Wonder) has noted, "You can't play ebow without sounding like Eno," and indeed, Brian Eno's sublime early recordings are evoked on this more introspective offering. There are also strong new vocalists joining Neko Case: Nora O'Connor (the Blacks) and Newman's piano-playing niece, Kathryn Calder. If there was a flaw with previous efforts, it was that the contributions of Dan Bejar (Destroyer), fine as they were, sounded somewhat out of place. Just as they're better integrated this time around, Twin Cinema offers every member of this insanely talented ensemble the chance to shine

The album begins with the title track, Twin Cinema, an upbeat, fuzzy guitar driven tune. The opening hook is ridiculous, it'll stay with you all day (and trust me, you won't mind). The second track, The Bones of an Idol, slows things down a bit, and is more vocal driven tune (but no less absorbing).

The third and fourth tracks, Use It and The Bleeding Heart Show are possibly my two favorite tracks on the album. Use It reminds me of Good Day Sunshine (Beatles) and The Bleeding Heart Show starts off sparsely and picks up, ending with a section reminicent of the coda of Hello, Goodbye. Needless to say, both songs kick ass.

Track 5, Jackie Dressed with Cobras brings back the style of the title track. Track 6, The Jessica Numbers has a great triplet feel and some awesome drum and guitar interplay. These are the Fables follows and starts off with accoustic guitars and piano and builds throughout the song. Fables lyrics are haunting and the song uses silence extremly well.

Sing Me Spanish Techno (track 8)is another one of my favorites (actually, there isn't a song I dislike on the album, but I hate when I ask people what the best tracks are and they say 'all of them!'). This is another fast track with the fuzz guitars and the vocals are ridonkulous. Falling Through Your Clothes has some moments where it sounds like the vocals are skipping (but in a good way if that makes sense). It's a very unique sound, but it works extremely well.

If there's a throwaway track on Twin Cinema, it'd be track 10, Broken Beads. It's not a bad song by any means, but it doesn't stand out either. I really like the next track though, Three or Four. I love the vocal lines and the driving guitars underneath.

Star Bodies (track 12) starts off with the some trading vocals and has a nice chorus. There's some good catchy stuff thoughout the song ("take me to where your sister lives"). Streets of Fire, is a nice little accoustic track, with some more lovely vocal lines. And the final song, Stacked Crooked sounds like a finale, if that makes sense at all. It sounds bigger, grander, like it should be the closer. Stacked Crooked has a big sound, a ton of instruments (trumpets!) and some more great vocal lines, it's also one of the longer songs on the album, clocking in at 4:18.

So there ya go, the review of Twin Cinema by The New Pornographers. The CD gets the Ben Cox Stamp of Approval.

(also, I got some more reviews coming up and I'll be experiementing with track by track reviews or an album overview with specific track highlights, tell me what you think - that is, if you actually have an opinion on the matter)

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