Put Your Hands Together
Together, the fifth studio album from Canadian indie pop supergroup The New Pornographers, is finally out, and not a moment too soon for fans of candy-coated melodies and sugar-spun harmonies. It’s as if A.C. Newman and Dan Bejar have succeeded in creating an entire album of singles, a K-Tel sampler of bubblegum music for the ring T-shirt crowd. Of course, it would be difficult to go wrong with longtime members Blaine Thurier (keyboards) and Neko Case (vocals) augmented by Will Sheff of Okkervil River and the horn section from Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings.
“Moves” kicks off the record with a cello-driven riff that would be heavy, if actually played by a sludge metal band with a dual guitar attack, but Ben Kalbs’ heaviness is leavened by “Oh, oh, ohs,” a little piano hook, and anthemic choral singing. Case takes center stage on “Crash Years.” Her singing voice is pleasant: feminine but warm, no squeals or coos and (thank heavens!) no melisma, which is so American Idol. As if her singing weren’t enough, music lovers also get more of that cello, more of those harmonies, and some whistling thrown in for good measure. Lyrically, it’s not clear what the song is about, but the chorus goes: “Traffic was slow for the crash years, / There’s no other show like it round here.”
No self-respecting power pop album would be complete without Anglophilia. Fortunately, Bejar saves the day with “Silver Jenny Dollar,” which takes the best of The Hollies and Herman’s Hermits and ignores everything disagreeable about Ray Davies. Best of all, Bejar sings with a faux-English accent, just in case listeners lacking a profound knowledge of pop songcraft don’t get it.
Delights abound in all 12 cuts, but the album’s standout song is surely “Valkyrie in the Roller Disco.” First of all, it employs the word valkyrie. Secondly, it’s got a catchy guitar figure snaking its way through the track and includes the great line, “Stand in the puddles of the disco ball’s glow.”
So never you mind that the oblique lyrics make it difficult to discern what the songs mean or, more importantly, what the New Pornographers care about, because Together is an embarrassment of riches, as if Harry Nilsson and Alex Chilton met in pop heaven to collaborate on a 45.