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Old 07-14-2007, 08:24 AM   #1
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The New Pornographers: Challengers

So, you can purchase Challengers, the new album from the most consistent of Canada's indie-supergroups, The New Pornographers, by way of Matador's spectacular "Buy Early, Get Now" campaign at www.buyearlygetnow.com; you can even start streaming the album right off the bat, once you place your order! As an added bonus, you're pretty much entitled to every scrap of music the band decides to release (B-Sides, Remixes, Live Shows, etc.) until, it seems, their next album comes out. It's a killer deal topped off with a special edition collector's case for all the goods, and it's a welcome throwback to the days when buying an album really meant something. Here is a band (and a label, more importantly--the campaign for the Wowee Zowee re-release, last year, was unreal) which seems to understand what it is that makes buying a record, rather than just hearing it, so special--something extra. We had it with LPs, and there was even a time when we had it with CDs, but this seems to me to be a pretty good way to maintain that all, here in the digital era.

Anyway...! The album also happens to be terrific! It's right up there with The Ike Reilly Assassination's We Belong to the Staggering Evening, Dan Deacon's Spiderman of the Rings, and SFA's Hey Venus!, duking it out to hold the early top spot on my "Best of 2007" list.

Bejar's contributions are spectacular, especially "Myriad Harbour" and the Destroyer cover, "The Spirit of Giving," which, due primarily to his shockingly magnificent vocal turn, may very well be one of the best songs this band has ever committed to tape (ie, it's one of the best songs you'll ever hear, since those're the kinds of songs which this band writes).

"My Rights Versus Yours," the lead single, is fairly representative of the album, as a whole--a slightly more somber and restrained affair, on the whole, which sounds like a cross between Twin Cinema (the band's second masterpiece and third album, released in 2005) and Newman's long-forgotten solo record, Slow Wonder. Great hooks still abound, but there's less explosive energy and reckless, everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink production. Things have a bit of a folksy feel which, as interviewers have correctly elicited from Newman, recalls rather distinctly a certain band they call Fleetwood Mac. The record is unashamedly ambitious both in terms of its regally complex arrangements (not to mention vocal harmonies!) and its semi-radical re-alignment of the band's sound. It's not radical music by any standard, but it's certainly a pronounced shift.

It's nothing at which Twin Cinema didn't hint, but it's still pretty sizeable of a change. Really, the only two songs which I think feel slightly out of place are the only two songs which sound like The New Pornographers--"All the Things That Go to Make Heaven and Earth" and "Mutiny, I Promise You." They're not bad songs (although "Heaven" is a barely-disguised rewrite of "It's Only Divine Right"), and "Mutiny" has some jaw-dropping moments of its own, but the real thrills are in the new sounds and arrangements.

"All the Old Showstoppers" piles on the campy fun and some great harmonies, "Challengers" (the first title-track not to kick off a New Pornos album!) features a typically gorgeous lead vocal from Neko Case (as does the pitch-perfect "Go Places"), "Failsafe" busts out the tremolo guitar and puts Kevin Shields to shame, and the Bejar tracks, as I said, kick untold amounts of ass. I swear, I will never understand how I can hate 90% of the man's solo recordings, as Destroyer, and love to fucking death every piece of music he writes with this band. It's uncanny.

"Myriad Harbour" alone has more gems than do most entire albums:

"I took a train, I took a plane...ah, who cares? You always end up in the city."

"I said to John, 'Do you think the girls here ever wonder how they got so pretty? Oh, well...I do...'"

"All the girls fall into ruin--droppin' outta school, breakin' daddy's heart--just to hang around."

"Someone, somewhere, asked me, 'Is there anything I can help you with?' ...All I ever wanted help with was you."

And to make things that much cooler, the band has again hired a producer simply to assist with the drum sound (I can't remember the man's name, for some reason...sorry!), which IS FUCKING AMAZING, YET AGAIN!!!!! I'm a stickler for perfect drum sonics, and these, at least in my book, are as close to perfect as I'm likely to hear. Cavernous, crsip, sweeping, and melodic all at the same time, they literally get me weak in the knees. If Mass Romantic had sounded like this, nobody would be talking about Pet Sounds, anymore. That's a fact.

Anyway, buy it. This album is good enough to change water into wine. No joke. I was talking about the Bejar song, "The Spirit of Giving," earlier--need I really say more than, "There is an album upon which Neko Case sings and doesn't deliver its best vocal performance"? I hope not.

I also hope that you love it as much as I do. Buy it and listen! Support artists who support fans! Holla!
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Old 07-14-2007, 12:30 PM   #2
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Ooh, I'll have to check this out. I have their first two CDs (still have Twin Cinema on my list). Great power pop.
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Old 07-14-2007, 04:52 PM   #3
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It's not Twin Cinema good.

It is definitely good, though. I'd reccommend it if you'd already heard Twin Cinema. If not though, start there first without question.
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Old 07-16-2007, 06:08 PM   #4
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Just saw these guys at the Pitchfork Music Festival, and I was blown away. Must consume now.
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Old 07-16-2007, 07:58 PM   #5
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Just saw these guys at the Pitchfork Music Festival, and I was blown away. Must consume now.
I like this band, but there's a Pitchfork Music Festival?

Do they pride themselves on exposing the latest indie trend they try to start to the masses?
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Old 07-17-2007, 01:56 AM   #6
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The website might be run by a bunch of snarky snobs, but they put on a great weekend that was totally inexpensive and didn't try and take advantage of hot and thirsty people stuck in a park for 10 hours. I think this was the second year, both times in Chicago, where Pitchfork is based.

The tickets were $50 for the whole weekend, $35 for Saturday and Sunday, or $20 for just Friday night. Friday saw three artists playing their most famous albums in their entirety: Sonic Youth doing Daydream Nation, The GZA doing Liquid Swords, and Slint doing Spiderland.

The rest of the weekend featured these acts (among others):

Of Montreal
New Pornographers
De La Soul
Stephen Malkmus
Professor Murder
Junior Boys
Yoko Ono
Cat Power
Jamie Liddell
Girl Talk
Clipse
Grizzly Bear
Voxtrot
The Sea and Cake
Califone

I was only there for Sat & Sun but it was well worth it. The sound was a bit low at times but still decent. There was a wide range of food there, and $5 could get you a meal, beer was only $4, and bottled water only $1. Compare that to Coachella, where they totally try to grift all the fans.
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Old 07-17-2007, 05:20 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by lazarus
The website might be run by a bunch of snarky snobs, but they put on a great weekend that was totally inexpensive and didn't try and take advantage of hot and thirsty people stuck in a park for 10 hours. I think this was the second year, both times in Chicago, where Pitchfork is based.

The tickets were $50 for the whole weekend, $35 for Saturday and Sunday, or $20 for just Friday night. Friday saw three artists playing their most famous albums in their entirety: Sonic Youth doing Daydream Nation, The GZA doing Liquid Swords, and Slint doing Spiderland.

The rest of the weekend featured these acts (among others):

Of Montreal
New Pornographers
De La Soul
Stephen Malkmus
Professor Murder
Junior Boys
Yoko Ono
Cat Power
Jamie Liddell
Girl Talk
Clipse
Grizzly Bear
Voxtrot
The Sea and Cake
Califone

I was only there for Sat & Sun but it was well worth it. The sound was a bit low at times but still decent. There was a wide range of food there, and $5 could get you a meal, beer was only $4, and bottled water only $1. Compare that to Coachella, where they totally try to grift all the fans.
^^^^

I was there all 3 days, its really a great event

I was the equivalent of about 5th row for the New Pornos, it was great, they put on a great live show

anyways back to the topic, I agree XHendrix, its good, but twin cinema was better
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Old 07-17-2007, 06:37 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by lazarus
The website might be run by a bunch of snarky snobs, but they put on a great weekend that was totally inexpensive and didn't try and take advantage of hot and thirsty people stuck in a park for 10 hours. I think this was the second year, both times in Chicago, where Pitchfork is based.

The tickets were $50 for the whole weekend, $35 for Saturday and Sunday, or $20 for just Friday night. Friday saw three artists playing their most famous albums in their entirety: Sonic Youth doing Daydream Nation, The GZA doing Liquid Swords, and Slint doing Spiderland.

The rest of the weekend featured these acts (among others):

Of Montreal
New Pornographers
De La Soul
Stephen Malkmus
Professor Murder
Junior Boys
Yoko Ono
Cat Power
Jamie Liddell
Girl Talk
Clipse
Grizzly Bear
Voxtrot
The Sea and Cake
Califone

I was only there for Sat & Sun but it was well worth it. The sound was a bit low at times but still decent. There was a wide range of food there, and $5 could get you a meal, beer was only $4, and bottled water only $1. Compare that to Coachella, where they totally try to grift all the fans.


As long as it's all music and no snobbery, I'm sold.
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Old 07-20-2007, 11:51 AM   #9
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That festival is fucking spectacular, every year. Even when they curated Intonation!, it kicked ass. Cheap, comfortable, well-sequenced, mostly well-organized, and in the greatest city in the world--Chicago. What's not to love?

This album still crushes everything else to have been released, this year, by the way.
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Old 07-20-2007, 12:05 PM   #10
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Yeah, the Pitchfork festival seems to be pretty cool and, at this rate, it'll become a very prominent festival based on word-of-mouth alone.
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Old 07-20-2007, 11:06 PM   #11
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The New Pornographers is a great band. Twin Cinema was my favorite of their's. Sing Me Spanish Techno = favorite song off there.
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Old 07-21-2007, 06:21 PM   #12
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Pitchfork! I was only there on Sunday, and got the worst sunburn, but seeing Menomena, Jamie Lidell and Of Montreal was well worth it. I was too tired and hot to make myself to go any other acts. /derail
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Old 07-27-2007, 07:14 PM   #13
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I just got an e-mail from Matador stating that all downloads courtesy of the Buy Early, Get Now campaign (including all past downloads) will be offered in both and .FLAC formats. How fucking amazing is that???????????????
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Old 08-23-2007, 10:16 AM   #14
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Bumping this, on account of a superfluous thread and the official real-life release of the album. Could a moderator perhaps merge this with the recently posted thread? I'd hate to have accidentally played a part in cluttering things up even more than they already are...

Anyway, this is still a shockingly great record. Apart from new records from SFA, The Ike Reilly Assassination, and Dan Deacon, I'm pretty sure that I've not heard anything this good, all year. I've certainly listened to it more than anything else, this year...
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Old 08-23-2007, 11:22 AM   #15
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I still have to check this out. I've already read two reviews that weren't overly impressed, however.
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