on May 6, 2010
Despite the fact that 2007's Challengers wound up becoming a better album as time went on, most people still viewed it as a disappointment in comparison to the near-flawless Twin Cinema. Those same people should be pleased then with the latest from A.C. Newman's group of power-poppers, Together. Eschewing Challenger's eccentricities for the more mainstream and catchy aspects of Twin Cinema, Together is more of a return to form than a reinvention. Songs like "Crash Years" and "Your Hands (Together)" come crashing down on the listener like a giant reminder of what made The New Pornographers such an endearing act to begin with. They parallel classics like "Sing Me Spanish Techno" or "Electric Version" flawlessly, and inspire such a visceral joy that repeat listens are almost guaranteed.
Neko Case regains a little bit of the spotlight that she lost on Challengers, and the result is nothing short of amazing. Her performance on "My Shephard" rivals some of her best solo work, and her vocals on "Up In the Dark" play flawlessly with Newman's, easily creating one of the best songs that the group has ever put together. Dan Bejar's songs are just as amazing. "Silver Jenny Dollar" may lack some of the lyrical charm of "Myriad Harbour," but the rest of the band makes up for that small misstep with flawless performances that keep the song interesting. "Daughter of Sorrow" is even better, but there's hardly any disguising that this is a Destroyer song dressed up in New Pornographers clothing. It has got all the grandeur of Bejar's greatest songs (think "European Oils" from Destroyer's Rubies), but completely overpowers his solo work with the help of his bandmates. I love it!
Together isn't all pomp and fanfare, however. Newman takes a few opportunities to slow things down and get emotional. "Valkyrie in the Roller Disco" is easily the most gorgeous song to release in 2010 thus far. Its subdued beauty is unparalleled by any other song the band has ever recorded (yes, even "Challengers"). When Neko and Newman sing, "Valkyrie don't go home/ It's not right/ Not right/ Leave with the lights up," it hits you in the gut and forces an emotional response. The drums and guitars are relegated to simple background duties, but Kurt Dahle absolutely nails the percussion here! When it comes in, it's just enough to heighten the song to another level. Amazing stuff, really.
A friend of mine commented on Facebook that Together is the best album the band has made since Twin Cinema. That's just a fancy way of saying that it's better than Challengers. Still, I'm compelled to agree with him on this one. Together is the New Pornographers album that all of us wanted after Twin Cinema. It is far more focused than its predecessor, presenting the listener with songs that aren't going to push any boundaries but still manage to excite. Some may be turned off by the band's insistence on sticking with the tried and true formula that has brought them such success, especially after Challengers' seemed to signal a slight change of direction. For what it's worth though, Together is a flat-out awesome album that rivals some of The New Pornographers' greatest work. Hearing it is like having an old friend write to tell you they're coming to visit. You're not entirely surprised by their arrival when they show up, but it's still nice to see them.
1. "Crash Years"
2. "Your Hands (Together)"
3. "My Shephard"
4. "Up in the Dark"
5. "Valkyrie in the Roller Disco"
9 out of 10 Stars
on May 4, 2010
The New Pornographers are a fantastic super-group that create rousing pop songs, low key rock songs and sing along acoustic ditties (and that's just the first three songs!) Together takes the best parts of past albums Twin Cinema (my favorite) and Challengers and meshes them together in a seamless and joyous manner. The merry men and women who make up TNP take the listener into their kooky world of lust, laughs and melody.
Their leader AC Newman is a melody maker supreme, spinning together sing along after sing along. Neko Case is arguably the best female indie/pop artist of the last five years. Her last two solo albums were on many year end top ten lists (deservedly so.) Her voice is sweeter than butterscotch. Dan Bejar is the x factor in the band taking his songs to creative and unusual places.
My favorite songs: The rousing Up in the Dark; the Belle and Sebastian-like You Can't See My Mirror; and finally the sing along closer, We End Up Together (could be this record's Bleeding Heart Show.)
If you're into indie-rock, new wave, pop, rock (hell, if you're into good music), you owe it to yourself to check out the latest from The New Pornographers. If you're already a fan, then I'm preaching to the choir... come to church and enjoy some good clean porn.
on May 28, 2010
Woke in bad mood. Bought NP "Together" - I've been holding off for a day when I needed a lift. Now smiling. Works every time. For a few years I told people this was my favorite band. Not sure that's true anymore, but then these guys moved to a separate category long ago. Can't compare them to anyone else. New Porns and A.C.Newman's solo stuff simply make me happy. Even when my initial reaction is "not as good as..." I know most of the songs will go on a frequently played playlist. Is anything here as achingly beautiful as "Adventures in Solitude" or as kickass as "The Slow Descent" or "The Laws Have Changed" or "Twin Cinemas"? Nope. Do I care? Nope.
[update, July 21] I have had a complex relationship with this album. For a few weeks I have been telling friends it is my least favorite NP work. Then I saw them play most of the material in Oakland 3 days ago, and got a new level of understanding. Now ... is it my favorite? I dunno. Can't compare it to the earlier stuff or to anyone else in rock/pop. It's just a different and wonderful color to add to my listening palette. Listen to it LOUD!
on May 4, 2010
So this is it -- the great lost follow-up to Twin Cinema, and, in some ways, a record that may surpass it. Yes, it is that good. And while it continues to explore paths traveled down with Challengers, it does so with an energy and enthusiasm that excites. Sure, the electric keyboard buzz of the first two albums is replaced by the sawing grind of a cello, but it grinds out intricate, unique, pop perfection.
This pop goes deeper and gets under your skin. Lines like, "Damage, I'm for damage, sweet damage" and "Like the rest of us, you've got those eternity blues" stay with you and haunt the sunny melodies. And then there is just the shear fun of "Somebody took a bite out of my bed -- you" or a song crafted out of the big rig warning, "If you can't see my mirrors."
Everyone is here in full force. Dan's songs flow seamlessly with Carl's to create a satisfying whole; when not taking the lead, Neko weaves deliciously and generously in and around Bejar and Newman; Kurt Dahle's drums once again splatter from your speakers; and, perhaps the best new development, Kathryn Calder arrives as an essential and distinct force in the band, especially on "Sweet Talk."
The album builds to a rousing finale of Neko shouting "ma-ma-ma-ma" over Carl singing "we end up together." For a band whose members put out such stellar "solo" material, it's amazing the music they still create together.
on March 16, 2014
I really love the new direction that The New Pornographers took with Challengers and now this album, Together. The songs are just much better in my opinion. The lyrics are more intimate. This is a truly masterful album.
Just stay away from "Silver Jenny Dollar". That's the song I do not like. The chorus is just stupid, repetitive, and its lyrics are meaningless to me.
on May 13, 2010
Okay, we have all accepted the fact that The New Pornographers will never top the masterpiece Twin Cinema. However, Together comes dangerously close to equalling it. Again, we have accepted that Challengers is their weakest CD even though it has its own charms and its share of classic Pornographers tracks. Now, what Together does is gives us the best of the all out blitz of Twin Cinema and expands on the new musical territory explored on Challengers. Upon listening to Together the first two times, I feel the adoration and all the reasons to love The New Pornographers, and added to it the anxiousness to hearing this new material live. Their live shows are so much fun and very entertaining especially if you have the pleasure of seeing them with the full lineup.
They hit the ground running with "Moves", "Crash Years", "Your Hands", "Silver Jenny Dollar" and "Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk." It really is a very solid and well put "together" work. Carl and Neko's harmonies have never sounded better and Danny's tracks are very good, especially "Jenny" and "If You Can't See My Mirrors". The second half of the CD enters different territories. much like Twin Cinema did without a kick ass track like "Star Bodies", but there are some real gems here like "Up in the Dark" and "A Bite Out of My Bed." All in all, definitely worth buying since it's gonna be one of the best of the year and a must own for all New Pornographers fans.
on August 14, 2013
It's hard to be fair to this band and criticize their work! In my humble opinion, this group has lots of great stuff to listen to. Every album of theirs that I've come across has at least 3 songs that I absolutely enjoy. That said, the rest of their work is more interesting than most things I come across these days. I can't say who will love what. I just think that A.C. Newman is a super talented guy who surrounds himself with super talented friends in the studio.
As far as catchy, melodic stuff goes, you can find much that is of interest and my favorite thing about A.C.Newman is his phrasing, in terms of lyrics. Breaking words and sentences up in odd ways that keep your brain entertained. If you don't get this album, I recommend "Shut Down The Streets", a solo project by A.C. Newman. After you listen to it three times, it's arguably, one of the best things to have happened to my / your ears.
on May 7, 2010
This is a wonderful album full of catchy hooks and quirky twists. Like a picture that grabs your attention more if you don't look directly at it, this album makes a stronger impression if you listen to it while doing something else, in my experience. Highlights for me include "Crash Years" and "Valkyrie in the Roller Disco", songs that sound like old Guided by Voices nuggets that have been fashioned into complete well-polished gems. For my money this is either the best or 2nd best album of 2010 so far, depending on whether the Mumford & Sons album is counted as 2009 or 2010.
on March 29, 2015
I'm not the biggest New Pornographers fan, I have to admit. I've liked some of their stuff, loved a rare few, but felt iffy about a lot of it. "Together" is a great album in my opinion, and it has quite a few of my favorite NP songs on it: We End Up Together, Crash Years, Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk, and Valkyrie in the Roller Disco. I'm not sure exactly what it is that keeps me from completely falling head over heels for this band, but to me, it just sounds like something is always missing. Either way, they're a decent group and I enjoy listening to their music from time to time, and this album is probably my favorite of theirs.
on March 18, 2011
It's hard to maintain the level of excellence The New Pornographers had. Led by A.C. Newman, this supergroup, which includes indie stars Neko Case and Dan Bejar (who also writes and sings a few songs on each album), churns out great album after great album. Even their disappointments are better than the field, and after a subdued effort last time around, The New Pornographers are once again fired up and making great pop music.
With "Together", The New Pornographers sound the most like their debut effort than they have since "Mass Romantic" was released, full of joy, energy, and a heady sense for melody that has marked the band's tenure. The album sounds more organic than their previous efforts, free from the distortion of "Electric Version" or the crunchy candy style of "Twin Cinema", with a cello often leading the way while guitars play in the background. From the dusky tones of "Valkyrie in the Roller Disco" to the sprightly "Bite Out of My Bed", The New Pornogrphers once again deliver emotional and melodic heft breezily, as if writing catchy songs was the easiest thing in the world.
Bejar's work is especially commendable here. The way he filters his own songwriting style into something that sounds like the band has always been fascinating and rewarding, but he contributes perhaps his best song yet in "Silver Jenny Dollar", his unique tone and delivery the sweet to A.C. Newman's savory. Neko Case's role is a bit diminished here, but Kathryn Calder acquits herself well, and Case fits within the band dynamic more naturally than ever when she does sing, as opposed to the way she sometimes took over songs previously (not that this has been a bad thing; this is merely an observation). While the album title could be a reference to a few songs that use the word, it seems more likely to be a reference to how the band sounds more tightly knit than ever before, truly a group of equals.
It's hard to pick apart an album that holds up so universally throughout. The album never sags, never drags, and holds up incredibly well when compared to their back catalog, and nearly a year after release, I still listen to it fairly often. It used to be difficult for me to identify which of their albums was the best because it largely depended on mood, but with "Together", The New Pornographers have put the argument to rest. Five albums in, they've outdone themselves, and despite that, it seems possible that their next could somehow be even better. This is a band with no shortage of creative and musical expertise on-hand, and they're at full strength here. 2010 was a good year for music, but "Together" stands astride the pile at the very top. This is the best album I heard all of last year.