Anyone who has followed Vancouver-based rock band The New Pornographers since their 2000 debut, Mass Romantic, is about to be stunned. The six-piece band’s third LP, Twin Cinema, arrives in stores on August 23… and it’s their greatest achievement.
The debut was a solid piece of pop songwriting (though buried in muddy production) and the 2003 release, Electric Version, was their able attempt to polish up their sound and craft. But Twin Cinema, with its take-no-prisoners approach to finding a hook, is a bustling orchestra of harmonies and hot arrangements. The band, led by master songwriter Carl Newman, throws everything (and I think I hear a kitchen sink) into the sonic mix. Plus, every member (and every guest musician) sounds at the top of their game.
Whether it’s a straight-forward arena anthem (“Sing Me Spanish Techno”) or an homage to African choir (“The Bleeding Heart Show”), the songs are full-bodied and smooth. Nowhere on Twin Cinema will you find an abstract or bare composition. If there’s any potential fault on the record’s 14 songs, it’s that it may be too busy and crowded for some listeners. Like some kind of rich pastry, small bites may be better to keep the sugar high contained. By the time you reach “Three Or Four” (track #11), you may feel a sugar crash coming on… but take a deep breath and settle in with resounding wrap-ups called “Streets of Fire” and “Stacked Crooked.”
And, while Carl Newman seemingly runs the show, you would be foolish to consider The New Pornographers anything less than a winning ensemble. And, in the age of singer-songwriters, solo artits, or bands overshadowed by their frontmen, it’s nice to hear a band that sounds like… a band. Take one listen to “The Bones of An Idol” and fall hypnotized to the sweet indie-croon of alt-country songstress Neko Case. Or, take a second and pay attention to Kurt Dahle’s drums or Blaine Thurier’s keyboards… and notice how they soar whil sticking within the frame.
Twin Cinema may be the perfect summer record, but why release it at the end of the season? My theory is, while it features the standard New Pornographers’ summer-friendly feel, the record is more timeless than that. Coincidentally, Carl Newman has this to say, “We wanted to see if we could make a record that isn’t referred to as ‘the windows down, car-stereo-blasting summer album of the year’, if only once.” Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. It’s answering that question, that will keep Twin Cinema in your car stereo for many seasons to come. Summer. Autumn. Winter. Spring. Classic.