album reviews

The New Pornographers
Twin Cinema
Matador (2005)

There are a couple of givens about the New Pornographers. First, their songs are catchy as all hell. Second, while Neko Case's vocals might have gained them publicity early on, they're now most recognized for the crisp songwriting of Carl Newman and Dan Bejar. In fact, with the addition of vocalists Nora O'Connor and Kathryn Calder (who is Newman's niece)—not to mention a recent Pornos tour without the sultry country singer—Case's role is no longer a crucial one.

Which is not to say she has become insignificant, just that her contributions on the Pornos' latest, Twin Cinema, are more subtle. But Case still has some of the album's most memorable moments. At the end of "The Bleeding Heart Show," she belts out a plaintive melody while the rest of the group counters with harmonious "hey-la"s straight out of a hippie love-in.

With 13 musicians contributing to Twin Cinema, things do get a little chaotic. But the Pornographers always temper their chaos with a glimmer of restraint. "Star Bodies" matches a driving drum growl with controlled, percussive vocals, and Newman's voice on the bouncy verses of "Use It" is reminiscent of some of the best songs from 2000's Mass Romantic. When the harmonies kick in during the chorus, the song races toward unbridled mayhem, but that merely confirms another tenet of the New Pornographers: Their teamwork functions most effectively when their chaos is just barely controlled.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: the Baltimore CityPaper: 12 October 2005
.: Twin Cinema on