in Retrospecticus

Retrospecticus: The New Pornographers

I was working on this and thought it would make Colin shit the bed if I made it three retrospectici (plural?) in a row. My all time favorite alternative super-group is coming out with a new album tomorrow. I’m glad I pre-ordered it on iTunes so that they can bill me when it comes out. Romantic (2000)

This is probably the album I listen to the least, but by know means is it the worst. You can tell that the band has not really found it’s identity with this first release and kind of almost stumbles their way into power pop prowess.

Leading off with the swinging title track sung by Neko Case, the album is filled with upbeat songs that no one is quite sure what about. Filled with crunchy guitars, sweet harmonies, and plenty of synth to go around, the BC native hipsters found a new sound that does not resemble the bands from which they came.

Like all the albums, vocal duties are split up between AC Newman, Case, and Dan Bejar (that dumb guy that no one likes quite as much). It was rated #24 on the list of Greatest Indie Albums of All Time by Blender Magazine in 2007. Pretty good eh?

Favorite Tracks: “Mass Romantic”, “Slow Decent into Alcoholism”, and “The Mary Martin Show”. Electric Version (2003)

Realizing that none of their solo projects were nearly as good as what they were doing together, they came back and made this. More of the same stylistically, but improving on every aspect. While “Mass Romantic” was a good first attempt, “Electric Version” really let everybody know that they had arrived. It even has the Rock Band song!

The one complaint is that this is the album that it seemed like Neko Case was getting less and less air time. I really wish I liked her solo stuff more, because she really thrives in this style of music. Newman’s great, Bejar less so, but Case is just the best. She doesn’t take part in songwriting as far as I know. Maybe Newman should just write all of her solo stuff. Yeah that would work!

So basically it’s a more perfected version of “Mass Romantic.” Sweet. Super sweet.

Favorite Tracks: “The New Face of Zero and One”, “From Blown Speakers”, “Miss Teen Wordpower”. Cinema (2005)

This is the first New Pornographer album I physically bought. I remember very vividly going to Best Buy and being like, “Yeah this is awesome.” I remember seeing the cover and being like, “Yeah this is awesome.” Then I listened to it and I was like, “Meh, this is pretty good.”

Definitely my least favorite of the the four, Twin Cinema built off the success of “Electric Version”, but unfortunately the songwriting just was not as strong. It is almost as if they tried to change their approach musically, but changed their mind half way through and tried to revert to their old ways.

It’s not as if it is a bad album, but it’s just not one I go out of my way to listen to. There are definitely some tracks that stand out like the title track and “Jackie, Dressed in Cobra’s”. Maybe I’m being too hard on it, but maybe not.

Favorite Tracks: “Twin Cinema”, “Jackie Dressed in Cobras”, and “Bones of an Idol”. (2007)

This time they changed their approach musically, and it worked! I’d say the same energy is still present in their rocking ways, but there is definitely a different feel. The instrumentation is much more natural replacing the synthesizers with brass and strings.

Emotionally I think it is a much fuller album. Not necessarily lyrically, but again the feel makes it seem like they are not just out to have fun anymore. Unlike the first two albums where it made you feel like dancing and partying, this makes you want to stand up and fight for something that you are not quite sure what it is yet. All of this sounds strange, but it makes sense in my head. My favorite part in the whole album, maybe in their whole discography, comes in “Adventures in Solitude” when the violin does a beautiful transition into the bridge/chorus and Case takes over the vocals. One of my favorite melody’s ever right there.

I think this is going to be a tough act to follow, but I am glad they won back my fandom with “Challengers”.

Favorite Tracks: “My Rights Versus Yours”, “All The Things That Go To Make Heaven and Earth”, “Go Places”, and “Adventures in Solitude”.

So I guess Pre-Ordering an album on iTunes means that when you try to download it it does not work. So yeah. iTunes, give me my money back.