10 Best New Pornographers Songs
At various times over the past dozen years, the New Pornographers have been a sextet, a septet and an octet. It all depends on when you catch them and who feels like being a part of the band at the time of recordings and concerts. The members spring from Vancouver's indie-rock scene; three of them -- Carl (AC) Newman, Neko Case and Destroyer's Dan Bejar -- are solo stars in their own right, having released approximately 20 albums among them. But the band dynamic brings out the best in them. From the 2000 debut 'Mass Romantic' to 2010's 'Together,' the New Pornographers have stirred a mix of sweet and sour power-pop, oddball indie rants and even a little old-fashioned torch, all of which you'll find on our list of the 10 Best New Pornographers Songs.
The best New Pornographers songs have very few twists. You pretty much know what you're getting, no matter who the main singer and songwriter may be. This straight-up power-pop cut from the group's excellent 2005 album is three and a half minutes of '70s guitar, rolling pianos, super-tight harmonies and a verse-chorus setup with a barely discernible divide. It's also one of the band's most playful songs.
There's a lot going on in the title track of the group's third album. The usual New Pornographers hallmarks are here -- guitars, harmonies, a monster hook -- but they fight for space and attention with a crunchy lead riff, waves of gargantuan drums and one of Newman's most passionate vocals. It's also the first song on the 'Twin Cinema' album, the band's most consistent.
Case's best song on the band's fifth album is a lyrically elliptical look back on growing up during less turbulent times. Or is it about the stock market? Either way, it's a highlight of a record that splits the group dynamic into more individual slices. They sound like a fully committed band on 'Crash Years,' just like they do on every track found on this list of the 10 Best New Pornographers Songs.
The very first song on the very first New Pornographers album sets up the band's template: hyperactive guitars, huge verses followed by even huger choruses and crisp, clear vocal interplay between Newman and Case. Lyrically, it doesn't say much, but 'Mass Romantic''s timelessness lies in its power chords.
The sort-of title track of the group's fifth album is also one of the toughest cuts the band has ever recorded. (It's certainly the toughest on this list.) Briefly pushing aside their usual power-pop, they import '70s-era classic-rock guitars and rumbling drums for a vocal showdown between Newman and Case that comes on like vintage Fleetwood Mac.
Another Newman-Case vocal highlight (penned, like most of the band's songs, by Newman), this somber breakup song kicks off the group's fourth album. The track picks up some speed over its four-plus minutes, but the mid-tempo rhythm perfectly complements the lyrical tone, which may or may not be about the deterioration of a marriage.
One of the New Pornographers' most popular songs features one of the strongest group performances. Newman takes the lead on the track, which includes one of his all-time tightest bridges. 'Sing Me Spanish Techno' sounds like something from 1979, right when '70s power poppers were giving way to '80s New Wave groups.
The band's second album, its best, is filled with meaty chunks of indie pop that expand on 'Mass Romantic''s already-sturdy foundation. Newman wrote this one, but Case takes lead, and she shines throughout, especially when she gets to the five-word chorus. Like many New Pornographers songs, it's lyrically vague. It might be a joyous expression of love. Or it might be about the band itself. Either way, it's one of the 10 best New Pornographers songs.
Newman sings the verses, Case takes the choruses and the whole thing comes together in three and a half glorious minutes that are filled with more hooks than most bands place on an entire album. Once again, Newman's ambiguous words make it tough to figure out what the song is about. (Our theory: It's a political allegory.) But no one's listening to the New Pornographers for their lyrics.
'Letter From an Occupant' contains a little bit of everything that makes up the 10 Best New Pornographers Songs: ringing guitars, a stellar vocal by Case (with a little help from Newman and the rest of the band), a melody that sounds just as comfortable nudging against '70s power-pop as it does '80s New Wave and a killer hook, one of the biggest to come from any group over the past dozen years. And just when you think a band breakdown is signaling the song's end, Case comes back for one more swing through the chorus. Totally sublime.