The New Pornographers
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The New Pornographers

Brooklyn, New York, United States | INDIE

Brooklyn, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Pop


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The best kept secret in music


"Like A Fresh Breeze"

The New Pornographers
Like a fresh breeze

It's something of a contradiction when an underground indie rock band gets dubbed a one-hit wonder.
Before the release of their third CD, The New Pornographers seemed destined to fall into that category, having produced, on their debut Mass Romantic, a song of such utter perfection, even pretty good - which they attained often on the rest of that first and its followup - paled in comparison.
That song, Letter From An Occupant, sits in the dictionary as the definition for "catchy."
Now, maybe because there's been enough time after that benchmark - five years - the band's latest Twin Cinema starts with something of a fresh slate, and is all the fresher and more freshly received because of it.
Band front A.C. Newman leads his superstar charges, including Neko Case, John Collins, Dan Bejar and Kurt Dahle, through perhaps their strongest collection of songs to date. It's light, lovely melodic pop with a new wave fuzz, shaved off the faces of everyone from Devo to the Divinyls.
There's no Letter, but there are enough good ones here - Use It, Sing Me Spanish Techno, Broken Breads - to make it tough to move past.
And more importantly enough to make you forget to wonder where that one hit went.
calgary sun
- Calgary Sun

"Sweet, savoury fusion confusion"

Sweet, savoury fusion confusion
Friday, August 19, 2005

Twin Cinema
The New Pornographers
Mint Records
This third album by Vancouver band The New Pornographers may get mixed reactions from fans. Say, for instance, that your favourite ice-cream man started infusing his chocolate mint with curry, or layering his heavenly hash with foie gras. Fine, he wants to stretch his gastronomic skills. But prickly fusion cuisine isn't what brought you across town on a hot night to line up at his stall at the fair.
For the past five years, The New Pornographers have been making, as reviewers like to say, "pop music for people who don't like pop music," sourced mainly in the post-psychedelic glam and bubble gum of the early 1970s and in 1980s New Wave. Of course, New Pornographers fans do like pop music; many merely refuse, for elusive sociological reasons, to admit it. But offer cayenne pepper instead of hot fudge sauce, and they might not bite.
The band features three lead singers (Carl Newman, Dan Bejar and Neko Case), guitars, drums, keyboards and expansive studio ingenuity. On 2001's Mass Romantic and 2003's Electric Version, the approach was to create hyper-pop, songs that sounded like three hit singles happening at once, with almost too many words, too many melodic hooks, too many hot riffs jammed together. They strained the form, testing just how catchy a tune could get before it collapsed, and then doing it again. Most songs exploded from the first note all the way to the final chorus.
Twin Cinema takes the proposition of making non-pop under more serious consideration. Not that it's scant on hooks, choruses and sing-alongs, but they're stirred into a thicker churn. There's a dark complication in even the brightest bonbons here. The album feels more mature, and perhaps more geopolitically aware; several songs teem with threat and conspiracy.
Tunes here tend to build gradually rather than burst into action. A few are subdued all the way through, including two ballads showcasing Case's swooping, sympathetic voice -- one the rousing These Are the Fables, and the other The Bones of an Idol, which plods.
With few exceptions, the band discovers new trap doors and stairs within its style without forgetting the route back to surging riffs and bell-ringing harmonies. Newman's Sing Me Spanish Techno and The Bleeding Heart Show and Bejar's Streets of Fire and Jackie Dressed in Cobras are among the Pornographers' best. Edit out the two or three stiffs and you've got a consistently addictive set.
But there are nagging issues. Only one of the three principals, Carl Newman, is fully committed. Neko Case has her alt-country solo career; Bejar's main project, Destroyer, is now signed to thriving Merge Records.
As vocal pinch-hitters, Newman has recruited his niece, Kathryn Calder, as well as Nora O'Connor of the group the Blacks. While the variety is diverting, it's no substitute for Case's solar-plexus punch. Meanwhile, Bejar's songs are too few here to lend the disc all the balance they could, yet his writing does show up Newman's flaws -- namely, the sense of a centre frequently missing from his songs.
(They all perform together on a joint New Pornographers-Destroyer tour this fall.)
Finally, there's the pop perplex: Is it all just too much tinkering around when, with Newman's arrangements and Case's pipes, they could be knocking out hits to leave Kelly Clarkson in the dust? I'm not sure. It's a memorable thing to meet the patent-holder on the curry cone, but the New Pornographers could be the emperors of ice cream.

Globe and Mail
- Globe And Mail

"greater than the sum of its players"

Whole Notes: New Pornographers prove the band is greater than the sum of its players
John Kendle

Nearly 10 years after Zumpano singer/guitarist Carl Newman started a side project he jokingly dubbed The New Pornographers, the Vancouver group is on the verge of becoming a 'real' rock band.
Yes, yes, we know the New Pornos have released three albums of shimmeringly resplendent, old-school pop music since 2000, and we are fully aware that the group has toured to support each offering.
But Newman says it's only in the last year that the indie 'supergroup' has decided it will soldier on with or without singer/guitarist Dan Bejar and vocalist Neko Case.
Both musicians are charter members of the New Pornos project. They've contributed to all three of the band's albums - Mass Romantic (2000), Electric Versions (2003) and Twin Cinema (2005) - but both are also successful solo artists.
Bejar is known as Destroyer and has actually toured only once with the Pornographers, last fall, when Destroyer was booked as opening act. Case is a revered alt-country performer whose third solo studio album is due out this spring, so her commitment to the NP project is determined by her busy schedule. She remains a part of the group but can't make all the gigs, including the band's upcoming Winnipeg show.
"These days we've basically been doing half and half, with Neko and without Neko," Newman explains by phone from his girlfriend's home in Brooklyn, N.Y. "We realized last year that the only way we could function as a band was to not cancel things because, say, Neko couldn't do it, so last June we basically went on our first mini-tour without Neko.
"That was like going into uncharted waters, going 'OK, let's see what it's like to be a band that plays regularly.'
"It was almost ironic, because we played maybe our biggest gig ever on that tour, a concert called Celebration in the Park, in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. There were 10,000 people there and we headlined. It was weird because we were looking out over the crowd and thinking, 'When's Coldplay coming on?' because we couldn't quite believe it."
That said, the Pornographers have been on a steady climb to prominence since Mass Romantic first caught critics' ears at the turn of the century. Each of the group's records has been hailed as its best, and Newman's 2004 album, The Slow Wonder (released under the name A.C. Newman), hit dozens of Top 10 lists at the end of that year. He was even heralded by no less than the New York Times Magazine as a new hero of the pop song, a man whose songwriting takes cues from the likes of Ray Davies and Brian Wilson while remaining wholly contemporary.
Twin Cinema has enjoyed a similar reaction, so Newman and co. figure they're on a bit of a roll. The band is about to embark on a major U.S. tour, opening for Scottish pop sensations Belle & Sebastian, and Newman is even talking about making a new Pornographers album within a year.
"I guess our career, or whatever you'd call it, is taking on a new trajectory," he says. "Each record has done better and better, and it's nice to come out with your third record and have people think it's your best record.
"Things are going well for us at an interesting time because we've just become free agents. Now we're like, 'What are we going to do next?'
"It's good to be at a point where you're just sort of rising and getting more popular and you're also in search of a record deal," he chuckles.
Still, Newman, now 37, is quick to point out that the indie-label darlings, signed to Vancouver's Mint Records and to the hefty indie Matador in the States, aren't about to jump right in with the major-label music sharks.
"We're relatively happy where we are," he says. "What makes our position really good is we can talk to major labels, but unless they offer us something really good we can say, 'You know, we've got a pretty good thing going right where we are.'
"Somebody would have to dangle a pretty huge carrot in front of our nose for us to be tempted away."
Rather than handle label politics and negotiations themselves, the group has hired a New York-based lawyer to take care of things for the next six months. This way Newman and the others - singer/pianist Kathryn Calder, bassist/producer John Collins, drummer Kurt Dahle, guitarist Todd Fancey and keyboardist Blaine Thurier - can focus on performing live.
The Pornos' current tour begins Feb. 18 in Vancouver, but they don't hook up with Belle & Sebastian until Feb. 26 in Toronto. Essentially, they're travelling across Canada to work the kinks out of their set (though not The Kinks, who remain a huge influence).
"We haven't been playing all of Twin Cinema, so I think we'll try and play all of the songs on this upcoming tour, just to shake things up a little bit," Newman says.
"Some songs, like The Jessica Numbers, we've only done once live, at our New Year's show. And on the fall tour a lot of people were requesting it live and we were like, 'That one's - Uptown Magazine - Winnipeg

"Prove They Have Staying Power"

The New Pornographers prove they have staying power

There are certain things musicians just don't do well. Getting up early is one of them. But Carl "A.C." Newman is visiting his parents in B.C., and, as such, my 10 a.m. phone call has his clock saying 7 in the morning. He's surprisingly ready to go.
"I'm still on East Coast time, so it's okay, but I've actually been training myself to get up earlier - my girlfriend works at Matador and she gets up early to go to work and I feel guilty just lying around." Newman, the main brain behind the sprawling body of the many-legged indie beast that is The New Pornographers, has been calling New York home for the last half year, but maintains a necessary connection to Canada's West Coast. We discuss the phenomenon of geographical branding when talking about his group and a certain Montreal "wolf" band whose members are all from Victoria.
"I'll claim Wolf Parade as being West Coast. I mean, you move somewhere for a couple years, and all of sudden, if you do well, that city wants to claim you. But that's sort of like me saying that I'm now a New Yorker."
One could see the interest in wanting to claim The New Pornos as one's own these days, since their latest album Twin Cinema has been called the best pop album of 2005 by many and has done exceptionally well. Meaning that on top of garnering more of the critical acclaim they have always received (for their 2000 debut Mass Romantic and 2003's Electric Version), they are currently selling a shitload of records.
"With Electric Version we sold 5,000 in the first week and we thought that was a lot of records. With Twin Cinema, apparently we sold something like 22,000 in a week, which was a number we couldn't even understand." As both preceding albums have been strong, I ask if there's something about this album, or conversely the current music climate, that he thinks may have been responsible.
"You know, I think we've just had a normal career arc and things have just been building. But no, I'm not exactly sure why this one is doing so well. Sometimes things just take on a life of their own and start building momentum. Or maybe it was the Internet." I venture that perhaps it's because they've taken their time releasing albums, instead of just churning them out. "Well, if you count all my solo releases [FYI: Newman's Juno-nominated The Slow Wonder is not to be missed], I have sort of been churning them out." Newman, playfully, is not making this easy.
All right. Perhaps it's because the group's membership reads like a who's who of West Coast musicians (as instructed, I didn't say "supergroup"). From Dan Bejar of Destroyer (who Newman gleefully informs me is on the cover of this month's Fader) to John Collins of The Evaporators and Kurt Dahle of Limblifter and Age Of Electric, there is no shortage of talent involved. A more recent addition was Kathryn Calder of Immaculate Machine, who was brought on board for the album and upcoming tour to first complement and then replace the very busy Neko Case, who is about to release her latest solo album. Calder, it turns out, shares a somewhat convoluted familial connection.
"A little while ago I found out I had a sister that I didn't know about, and she had two kids. I knew the daughter was into music, but it was John [Collins], actually, who saw her band play and then put two and two together. I didn't think there was any way it could work, but it turns out it does."
In summation: Who knows exactly why The New Pornographers work, but they do. And, holy shit, I can't believe some people start every day this early.

- Hour - Montreal

"NP Almost As Good As Sex"

Sun, August 14, 2005
Pornographers almost as good as sex

The New Pornographers
Mint Records
4 1/2 out of 5
Now that A.C. Newman has established himself as a solo talent to reckon with on the scale of Neko Case, the expectations can only be higher for this psychedelic pop band that houses both geniuses.
It's good news, then, that this record is as spirited as nearly anything they've ever done, keeping to short tunes that pack loads of innovation. Newman comes in with crazed energy on the title track, next to Neko with one of her best, simplest songs ever, The Bones of an Idol, a haunting little piano number about holding on that rolls in and out like the tide. Use It has that sort of Technicolor bippiness that you hear from the Shins, tasty as candy, without the fat. They're as good as the Who in certain moments. I want to make out with this band, man.
Kathryn Calder's piano is the secret star of the record, though when John Collins sings it's a pretty decent distraction, too.
More and more, the Pornographers are moving into Belle & Sebastian territory, having no less than 14 members this time, all of them glued together by Neko's heavenly voice and Newman's redheaded sass. I almost cried when I heard the cascading expansion of The Bleeding Heart Show, which just gets more and more complex and adds to the album's voyeuristic themes.
The new New Pornographers continues that twisted childish feel found in such things as the Syd and Marty Krofft TV shows and A Clockwork Orange. It's as if they exist in that exact second when girls become women, when you first decide to put your toys away forever and get into rock 'n' roll.
This is a serious contender for the year's best.

- Edmonton Sun

"Chart Cd Review"

The New Pornographers
Twin Cinema
Mint Records

Canada’s pop-rock supergroup scores a hat trick.
A.C. (Carl) Newman may very well sweat pop songs. The New Pornographers’ third album opens with the titular, "Twin Cinema," a big, bright, soon-to-be classic of the band’s canon and indie dance floors. Newman’s songs may never be as emotionally raw as NP vocalist Neko Case’s solo efforts and it’s highly unlikely that he’ll ever reach the lyrical and musical complexity of bandmate and Destroyer front man Dan Bejar, but he is peerless when it comes to melody. Of course, it’s Case’s ballsy vocal delivery and Kurt Dahle’s drumming that propel songs like "Use It," which seemingly answers 2000 Mass Romantic’s "My Slow Descent into Alcoholism" with, "two sips from the cup of human kindness and I’m shit-faced." From Mass Romantic, through 2003’s The Electric Version and last year’s solo record (not to mention his previous work with Zumpano), Newman’s witty lyrics and the aura of pure pop effortlessness are what The New Pornographers are all about. No, this isn’t a huge leap in sound or content, but to argue against Newman’s skills would be peevish.

- Chart Magazine

"Like A Fresh Breeze"

The New Pornographers
Like a fresh breeze

It's something of a contradiction when an underground indie rock band gets dubbed a one-hit wonder.
Before the release of their third CD, The New Pornographers seemed destined to fall into that category, having produced, on their debut Mass Romantic, a song of such utter perfection, even pretty good - which they attained often on the rest of that first and its followup - paled in comparison.
That song, Letter From An Occupant, sits in the dictionary as the definition for "catchy."
Now, maybe because there's been enough time after that benchmark - five years - the band's latest Twin Cinema starts with something of a fresh slate, and is all the fresher and more freshly received because of it.
Band front A.C. Newman leads his superstar charges, including Neko Case, John Collins, Dan Bejar and Kurt Dahle, through perhaps their strongest collection of songs to date. It's light, lovely melodic pop with a new wave fuzz, shaved off the faces of everyone from Devo to the Divinyls.
There's no Letter, but there are enough good ones here - Use It, Sing Me Spanish Techno, Broken Breads - to make it tough to move past.
And more importantly enough to make you forget to wonder where that one hit went.
calgary sun
- Calgary Sun

"Stellar New Disc"

CD Review: New Pornographers:
Twin Cinema
Vancouver band releases
stellar new disc
By DARRYL STERDAN -- Winnipeg Sun

The New Pornographers
Twin Cinema
It's only right that pop and pap are spelled almost identically. These days, they're practically interchangeable terms. Not that you need us to tell you that; if you've listened to Top 40 radio lately, you've heard it yourself.
But hear this: It doesn't have to be this way. Pop music doesn't have to be insipid, idiotic and instantly disposable. Of course, you probably don't need us to tell you that, either; if you've listened to The New Pornographers, you've heard that too.
Even if you haven't -- hell, especially if you haven't -- do yourself a favour and get ahold of their new album Twin Cinema, in stores Tuesday.
This third full-length from the Vancouver indie-pop supergroup led by singer-guitarist A.C. Newman (and co-starring guitarist Dan Bejar and songbird Neko Case) is the sound of what pop music could be if it were taken out of the hands of the cheese merchants and shallow greedheads and put back into the control of music lovers.
Which is to say, it's a collection of magnificently inspired, immaculately crafted and endearingly produced tracks whose creators are more concerned with maintaining standards than climbing charts.
Ray Davies and The Kinks remain Newman's most obvious influence, both in his arch, inherently theatrical songcraft and in his wry-high vocal stylings. But that's just the beginning; you'll find stylistic variety and depth to spare in every one of these 14 hybrid cuts.
The Neko-sung These are the Fables could be from the score to an off-Broadway musical -- but with John Bohman on drums. Falling Through Your Clothes marries British Invasion chop to twangy paisley vibrations. Stacked Crooked piles toreador horns and surf guitars atop psychedelic folk.
Bejar's pumping Broken Breads marries The Who's I Can See For Miles to Sparks classics like Amateur Hour and This Town Ain't Big Enough For the Both Of Us. And there are 10 more where that came from on this 48-minute gem, which seamlessly segues from garage-rock to piano-pop to glam without a misstep.
Whether any of them will dislodge the dreck chronically clogging up the airwaves is doubtful. But we hope that won't deter Newman, Bejar, Case and co. from continuing their campaign to save pop music -- from itself.
- Winnipeg Sun

"More Than Your Average Supergroup"

August 16, 2005
Spotlight: The New Pornographers
Slightly more massive than your average supergroup

Two of Canada's biggest bands -- in size and buzz -- bumped into each other one evening on the streets of New York City. "It was like two gangs meeting," says Carl Newman of Vancouver's New Pornographers. "We were leaving a bar and Broken Social Scene were going in. This huge group hung out on the corner for 10 minutes." While Newman, 37, says that's the extent of his relationship with Toronto's favourite indie rockers, his band feels a kinship with them. "Both are filled with a bunch of people who had been playing music for a long time and became popular. I'm sure we both sort of went, 'What the hell, where did this come from?' We both won Junos early on -- little parallels."
The new CD, Twin Cinema, is another collection of exuberant, sophisticated pop, showcasing the depth of this band's talent pool, which includes Dan Bejar (who also records under the name Destroyer) and twang queen Neko Case. Yet Newman can't figure out why they're called a supergroup. "Aren't supergroups where you take members from massive bands and stick them together and then the supergroup ends up slightly less massive? We took five unpopular things and stuck them together into one popular thing."

- Maclean's Magazine

"New Pornographers Screw Around"

The New Pornographers Screw Around

By Chris Whibbs
September 01, 2005
With their third album, Twin Cinema, ready to get the kids jumping, one might assume that, with the influence of various solo projects (Neko Case's country career, Dan Bejar's work as Destroyer), the disparate Vancouver supergroup have changed from their humble beginnings. Head Pornographer Carl Newman calmly explains otherwise. "You know, it hasn't whatsoever. When we were recording [2000 debut] Mass Romantic, nobody knew about us or cared. [Now] here we are, still working the same way, because it just works. Whatever the style is, there's something that makes us sound like us - even when we veer off from it, we don't veer off that much."
While Twin Cinema keeps to the upbeat adrenaline rush that New Pornographers' fans expect, there are some surprises, such as the addition on backing vocals of Newman's niece and Immaculate Machine front-gal Kathryn Calder. But it's in the selection of songs for Neko Case to lend her powerhouse vocals to that Newman toys most with past success. "Getting Neko to sing the prettier, quieter ones - people don't expect that in the band. That was kind of a deliberate move. What we did on the last record is find the most hit-like [songs] and give them to Neko, but [this] was kind of contrived in its way."
While many might have thought the New Pornographers would only be around for one, maybe two albums, the urge to continue is still strong; Twin Cinema proves that Newman is starting to look at the bigger picture by keeping fans on their toes when it comes to a beloved sound. "I used to have a theory that all you need is a big drumbeat and a good female singer and people will eat it up. I initially thought that jokingly, but it's kind of true. That's why I decided to screw with the formula."
- Exclaim! Magazine

"NP Shoots For The Nerds Within"

Pornographers shoot for the nerds within
By Adrian Mack

Jeez, the Georgia Straight just won’t leave Carl Newman alone. First we make him suffer through our Best of Vancouver questionnaire and now we’ve tracked him down in New York to pick his brains for another 20 minutes or so. "What’s up with that?" he asks dolefully, as he strolls through the Big Apple with a cellphone stuck to his head. "I’m just walking around Brooklyn," he continues absently. "They got pharmacies except they call them apothecaries. It’s the weird little differences you notice."
Perhaps if Vancouver’s New Pornographers would drop the ball just once—or if Newman would stop providing such amusing and sardonic interviews—then he might finally get some peace. No such luck, of course. The band’s most recent album, Twin Cinema, has only built on the extraordinary critical mom?entum of its previous releases, Mass Romantic and Electric Version. How often does the world’s music press shoot its load so ecstatically and unanimously? Newman, who brings his mighty pop conglomerate back home for a show at the Commodore on Friday (September 23), offers a fairly glib take on the situation. Perhaps when appreciation of your music becomes a parlour game for the critics, you tend to shrink from the press a little. "I love it when people write about the record and make it seem far more cerebral and intelligent than it actually is," he says, with undue modesty.
The Pornographers are in New York attending the CMJ Music Marathon. They’ve also managed to score the musical-guest spot on Late Night With Conan O’Brien, during which Newman and his bandmates were forced to deal with Lara Flynn Boyle, who simmered with weirdness at the far end of O’Brien’s couch, fixing her gimlet eyes on them while they waited for Conan to wrap up a lively interview with The Sopranos’ Steven Schirripa.
"I asked Conan if she was crazy and he said, ‘Yeah,’?" Newman reveals. "It was strange." He wonders if it affected their performance. "Was it good?" he asks. The sound mix wasn’t great, but the band was, with stick-twirling drummer Kurt Dahle, in particular, radiating some welcome cockiness on American network television.
The band played its current single, "Use It", but naturally had to change the line, "Two sips from the cup of human kindness/And I’m shit-faced." Instead, Newman sang "And I’m replaced." "Pretty conceptual when you think about it," he says, dryly. Yep—but it’s also consistent with the band’s governing impulse toward high concept. Underneath the hooks, Newman’s evasive lyrics—often delivered with frothy glee by Neko Case—have given critics and fans plenty to chew on. Dan Bejar’s minatory contributions, meanwhile, are a contra-indicator to Newman’s compulsive invention of chord progressions that dissolve right inside the listener’s pleasure centres. In keeping with the notion that the project constitutes "Vancouver’s indie-rock supergroup"—repeated ad nauseum in the press—each Pornographers release feels like a pop record conceived by an alliance of slightly perverse Nobel Prize winners. No wonder the critics fawn.
As with the band’s previous records, the race is on to identify the influences that surface in Twin Cinema. Spin weighed in with Squeeze, Sparks, and the Raspberries among others, but Newman is circumspect. "Raspberries?" he grimaces. "I dunno. I think the Raspberries is a name people throw around to be more obscure, instead of saying the Beatles. Sparks, definitely. Eno, Roxy Music… I think it’s strange to emulate anything too much, but at the same time, I don’t try not to emulate too much."
Mention that Newman’s previous band Zumpano seemed consumed with writing a song as good as "Care of Cell 44" by the Zombies and he laughs and says, "But it’s tilting at windmills. It’s like tribute albums. The best you can do is be almost as good as the original. Then again, Lilys had a record called Better Can’t Make Your Life Better, which is a total mid- to late-’60s Kinks ripoff, but they just nailed it so well and even added their own thing to it, and it really stands up."
Although he’s as much of a music nerd as a good portion of his band’s fan base, Newman was not in the Vancouver audience last month when a terrified-looking Brian Wilson was pushed on-stage to have his hem kissed over Smile. "I’m kinda weird about those things," he says softly. "I wanna remember those people the way they were. I don’t wanna see Arthur Lee’s new Love, or the new Zombies. I went to the Seeds concert [at the WISE Hall last month] and that was kinda depressing."
Still, he does bring up legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb on the band’s Web site, declaring that "These Are the Fables" is a reach in the great man’s direction. Webb’s book Tunesmith is an essential read for anybody interested in either adopting or subverting the tools of classic songcraft, Newman explains. "In the book, he’s writing this song called ‘Problem Child’—and he’s going through the writing process and - Georgia Straight Vancouver


Twin Cinema Cd & LP 2005
Electric Version Cd & LP 2003
Mass Romantic Cd & LP 2000


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