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The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers

For me, its been a New Pornographers kind of Summer.  Meaning that in early May, I finally started to get into this band that I’ve been aware of for a while (I even seen ’em live), though I’d never given their unstoppably awesome discography the attention it deserves.  And in the process, their blissed-out take on power pop helped ease me out of a bad personal rut I’d been in for most of the Spring, and then proceeded to serve as the soundtrack to a Summer that I can’t make any huge complaints about.  Ok, maybe there is one complaint I could make.  That being that I got a really bad spider bite on my arm about two weeks ago that culminated with me having to go to the emergency room to treat the infection (don’t worry, it’s fine now).  Then what did I find for me waiting at home after getting back from the ER?  Why the deluxe vinyl copy of Brill Bruisers I’d preordered, whose celebratory sound has served as a nice bookend to the summer, while also being about the best medicine the doctor could’ve ordered.

Perhaps the biggest change this time around to The New Porno’s well-honed formula is the more electronic-leaning elements on Brill Bruisers.  As you might guess, I’m usually not prone to these kinds of musical flourishes, but I don’t really mind it considering the album has such a well-crafted sugary sweetness, and this just makes sense for a band that has had multiple keyboardists for a while now.  Also, these synth-heavy sounds work particularly well on Dan Bejar’s songs considering his recent work with Destroyer — as his “War On The East Coast” didn’t sound like a single to me at first, but has continued to really grow on me (this often seems be the case with Bejar’s songs).  And overall, it’s just nice to hear the band returning to it’s more joy-filled roots, as the band’s last couple albums, though good, have leaned a bit heavy on the melancholia.

A.C. Newman has recently said that he’s really proud of this album because it feels more like a collaborative group effort, since he never wanted The New Pornographers (despite being a “supergroup”) to just be a collection of artists throwing their different songs on to the same disc.  And on Brill Bruisers, everybody gets to do their thing — whether it’s Neko Case’s youthful defiance on “Marching Orders”, Kathryn Calder repeatedly showing up as the band’s secret weapon, or Newman blowing his harmonica all over Bejar’s “Spyder”.  And I think it is in fact this team mentality that I’ve responded to with this album, especially after watching the band’s recent appearance on Letterman, in which all The New Pornographers just look like a bunch of seasoned pros who truly enjoy each other’s company.

Favorite Tracks: “Brill Bruisers”, “War On The East Coast”, “Dancehall Domine”

Look Me In The Eye And Tell Me I’m Satisfied

I once found myself sitting on the lawn of the Gorge Amphitheater in the summer of 2010 at The Sasquatch Music Festival, discussing an oft-asked question among me and my cohorts.  The question being, “what musical artists do you absolutely need to see before you die?”  I’m sure Springsteen was thrown into the mix as usual (why don’t you ever come to Seattle, Bruce!?) as were a few other artists who I can’t recall specifically.

Then I remember at some point I threw out The Replacements as a band who I’d have to see if it was ever possible, but then scoffed at the idea, saying “they’ll probably never get back together”.  Then I’m sure a few moments passed before I caught sight of a headband-wearing dumbass chugging an 18-dollar can of PBR, and thought, “man, music festivals are stupid”.  So perhaps it was only fitting that what finally brought me back to my first festival since 2010 was seeing The Replacements play this year’s Bumbershoot in lieu of a reunion that was a long time coming. Continue reading