On Disc: The New Pornographers

Album: Challengers

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Challengers by The New Pornographers

The New Pornographers
Last Gang Records Inc.

3.5 stars

New Pornographers fans rejoice! Challengers, the long-awaited follow up to Twin Cinema is here, and it’s not half-bad.

While more mellow than the band’s previous efforts, Challengers still contains a few of the classic power-pop tunes New Pornographers fans have come to love.

The album begins on a mediocre note; “My Rights Versus Yours” is Twin Cinema-lite. “All The Old Showstoppers” has a solid singalong chorus, and “Challengers” is a soulful Neko Case/A.C. Newman harmony track.

However, it isn’t until the fourth track, “Myriad Harbour,” that the quirky lyrics and upbeat guitar lines show through.

Case’s incredible voice on “Go Places” is a high point on the album, but her level of involvement with Challengers is questionable. Now that she has a successful solo career, Case seems more like a secret-weapon guest star than a full-fledged member of the band. Also gone are the trippy timing changes featured on the previous albums.

Overall, Challengers is an enjoyable album full of beautiful harmonies and evocative, heartfelt songwriting.

As a result, indie-rock snobs and hardcore New Pornographers fans may be slightly disappointed since this isn’t the sound they have come to expect.

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