With two decades and six studio records under their belts, you might think these indie-rockers would consider slowing down. This is not the case for The New Pornographers. They are always in some process of re-working or making new music that is both admirable and fitting for a band that is trying to make their own mark in the world of music. It is always hard when it comes to music because people are quick to compare artists to one another. The New Pornographers make that hard and they prove it with their latest release “Whiteout Conditions.”
For the Vancouver-based group, The New Pornographers, it is hard not to call them a modern-day super group. With most members like Carl Newman and Neko Case making waves with their solo careers, the band does not necessarily struggle with gaining national and critical attention. The band first formed back in 1997. They released their first studio album “Mass Romantic” in 2000. From there, they only started to pick up steam with a more modern psychedelic-rock sound. They have never had much trouble standing out. Their sixth studio album “Brill Bruisers” charted as high as number 13 here in the states. Now, without band member Dan Bejar, the group has released their seventh studio album “Whiteout Conditions.”
“Whiteout Conditions” is an 11-track record that clocks in at around 42 minutes in length. There is no hiding it this time around, though; synthesizers are the driver factor in this record. While it is not necessarily a bad thing by any means, it does give the record a much more dated feel when listening to it. The name may be a deceiving factor too. It has a bleaker and more serious tone. While there is a lot of fun to be had while listening to this record, the listener can not help shake the feeling that this record does not know exactly what it is. Structurally, from front to back, it takes listeners on a trip, but it has a sense of randomness about it.
Musically, there are plenty of dance-pop anthems to move along to. Whether that be the more playful title track “Whiteout Conditions” or “Darling Shade,” rhythms are infectious and it is enjoyable to lose yourself in some of these tracks. That is not exclusive to those two tracks either. Everything on this record has its own little quality that makes it enjoyable and different from the rest. “High Ticket Attractions” is one of the few that really plays with the infectious melody. While on the other hand, tracks like “We’ve Been Here Before” take themselves too seriously and slow things down in tempo. Needless to say, The New Pornographers had plenty of space to play with when writing this record. “Whiteout Conditions” takes what one thinks of in pop and rock and transfuses them in a more meaningful and poetic way.
Lyrically, there is a lot to admire. “Whiteout Conditions” takes the classic pop formula and throws it away. It is not as romantic as it is serious and that is what works best for this record as a whole. The closing track, “Avalanche Alley,” is a very soothing duet between Case and Newman. While they use concepts of couples colliding then crashing and burning, it works best here and in “We’ve Been Here Before.” There are some tracks where themes and lyrics really take a backseat to the music, such as “This Is The World Of The Theatre.” Overall, the number of singer-songwriters in The New Pornographers come up with some meaningful and intrinsic poetry.
Should you listen to it?: Yes.
“Whiteout Conditions” is not a perfect record by any means. It is a more meaningful and deep record for technically being labeled as pop. Listeners can clearly hear why The New Pornographers have made it this far when listening through from start to finish. “Whiteout Conditions” is a heavy contender this year. While it may not be for everyone, it is not hard to find a track or two that one will enjoy. The New Pornographers have not made it this far without making something that is enjoyable to listen to.
Collegian reporter Alec Erickson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CTV_Ace.