Album Review: The New Pornographers – In The Morse Code Of Brake Lights

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Despite having been around for over twenty years, having released eight albums, and having their debut album, Mass Romantic, nominated as the 24th “best indie album of all time” by Blender Magazine, I feel as though Canadian based indie rock band, The New Pornographers, are not as much of a household name as I’d like to think they should be. They are one of those bands where everyone likely knows one of their songs (as they’ve been used in countless television shows and commercials), but they don’t really know who performed the song, or what any of the band’s other songs are. It’s time to make this band part of your listening line up!

Headed up by vocalists Neko Case (who has had a solo career of her own) and Carl Newman (who solos under A.C. Newman), along with ten other band members (some who have come and gone over the years), The New Pornographers have been pumping out their own unique blend of music for a long time now, and it’s time you jumped on the bandwagon with them. Their music shows a multitude of levels with vocal harmonies, instrumentation, and very catchy melodic tunes with layers of depth beneath them.

Their newest album, In The Morse Code Of Brake Lights, released back in September of 2019. This album keeps with the overall feel that the band has delivered for years, and gives us a brand new catalog of songs to enjoy. Opener “You’ll Need A New Backseat Driver” eases you into the album with that familiar, catchy sound that the band has been delivering for years; giving you a chorus that you’ll find humming over and over again in your head, even after only ever hearing it one time. The track also houses the album title, lyrically. A good way to open and introduce the album to the listener.

Track two, “The Surprise Knock,” was one of the first singles to be released from this album. The tone of this song reminds me a lot of some of my favorites from their older albums, such as “Mutiny, I Promise You,” “Jackie, Dressed In Cobras,” and “The Electric Version.” I’m glad to see the band sticking to the sound that has made them unique to me after all of these years.

The album slows down a bit with “Falling Down The Stairs Of Your Smile” and then immediately picks tempo back up again with “Colossus of Rhodes,” which is full of wonderful string instrument runs that add to the overall body and fullness of the song. It is the musical embellishments, such as these string runs, that really make me truly love the music that this band delivers. They know how to add in symphonic layers to really bring their songs alive on multiple levels beyond just the melody and rhythmic chords.

Speaking of strings, one of my favorite tracks on the album is likely “Higher Beams,” which starts out with a lovely string quartet intro. I also like a song that can sound sweet and drop a good, unexpected, f-bomb when necessary. “Fuck you for nothing.”

“Dreamlike And On The Rush” continues with the multi-layered, harmonic, background string heavy songs, and it truly does deliver a dream-like feeling while listening. “You Won’t Need Those Where You’re Going” slows down to be a more simplistic song, stripped of a lot of the background layers and focusing on piano and vocals. While more basic in design than the rest of the album, the song is a nice contrast, style wise. “Need Some Giants” opens strong with piano and vocals and heads quickly into the “call and response” style that a lot of The New Pornographers songs have had over the years — giving both vocalists a chance to shine.

The album slows down it’s pace a little again with “Opening Ceremony,” and then pops back up with probably my second favorite track from the album, “One Kind Of Solomon,” which brings back that The New Pornographers sound of yore that made me fond of the band so many years ago. Keyboards, drums, and catchy (yet sometimes unexpected) rhythms kick the energy up on this track. Keyboardist, Kathryn Calder, definitely adds her personality into the music on this one!

The album rounds out with “Leather On The Seat,” taking us back to the car based imagery that opens the album. Once more the keyboards and strings build the song out to a full orchestral sound, rich with vocals, and a perfect way to end this new album. The New Pornographers have delivered yet another really solid album.

The band is touring alongside the release of their new album, throughout the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Check out tour dates and get ticket info on their website at https://www.thenewpornographers.com/

Listen to the entire album on Spotify:

 

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