The Truth In One Free Afternoon
The New Pornographers - Challengers
Based on my experience with their last album, I really shouldn't be writing about the latest New Pornographers the first week it's out. My connection with their sophmore disc, Electric Version, was deep and immediate, but it took me a while to really bond with Twin Cinema. Honestly, it wasn't until after seeing them live that those songs really hit home, but once they did, the impact was every bit as heavy as their previous albums.
In the five days I've been listening to it, Challengers is proving to be another grower, not a shower. Nothing really jumped out at me on first listen (though I was listening at work, so I wasn't really focusing on it), but since then every time I play it, it reveals another charm. Most of the blogs (like fellow Nashville scribe Caleb) seem to be favoring Dan Bejar's "Myriad Harbour," but personally I'm partial to A.C. Newman's "Unguided," which seems to be this albums answer to Twin Cinema's "Bleeding Heart Show" as the quasi-epic emotional center.
One of the frequent complaints I've heard about this album is that the band is somehow going soft. The way some of the reviews have read, you'd think Newman's initials stood for "Adult Contemporary." Sure there are some slower numbers on the album, but there were mellow songs on Twin Cinema too. I'd argue that "All The Things That Make Heaven and Earth" and "Mutiny, I Promise You" rock as hard as anything they've ever done. You'd think that music listeners have become more sophisticated over the years, and the classic indie-rock whinery of "I liked them better before they changed" everytime a band tried to incorporate some new ideas and arrangements would have died long ago. I can't help but think these would be the same people complaining if they made Mass Romantic four times in a row.
The New Pornographers - "My Rights Versus Yours" (mp3)