2020 Album Draft- Round 8 -Pick 2- Aphoristical selects- The New Pornographers- Twin Cinema.

Vancouver’s The New Pornographers started as a supergroup drawn from a pool of local Canadian bands. Leader A.C. Newman came from a power-pop band named Zumpano, while Dan Bejar’s attained recognition as Destroyer and Neko Case is beloved for her alt-country records.

Twin Cinema is the collective’s third album together, and for me, it’s their peak – it provides the perfect balance between the energetic power-pop of their earlier work and their more nuanced later work. Newman’s lyrics are often about sound rather than meaning – there’s little that’s profound. But the group’s harmonies and Newman’s chord changes are exquisite – Newman’s reminiscent of the great songwriters of the 1960s like Jimmy Webb and Paul McCartney with his ability to make catchy songs with complex frameworks. They’re a great group to immerse yourself in if you haven’t found much music in the 21st century to enjoy – it’s all about melody and harmony.

Newman’s a masterful arranger. Second track ‘The Bones of an Idol’ is less than three minutes, but Newman layers so many ideas onto it. It starts simply; a voice backed with simple piano and acoustic guitar. But instruments are continuously layered on – Todd Fancey’s guitar lick that appears at around 1:15 is a vital component of the song, while the backing vocals at the end lift everything a notch further.

Sing Me Spanish Techno’ has more of a rock edge, an energetic power pop song. But it’s the beauty of the harmonies in the chorus that makes the song soar – Case is probably overqualified for the position of backing vocalist, but she elevates the song.

Case takes centre stage for my favourite song on the record, ‘These Are The Fables’. The verse melody is gorgeous, and the little dynamic shifts are lovely.

Dan Bejar has traditionally contributed three songs to each New Pornographers album, and his cryptic songs and idiosyncratic delivery provide some contrast to A.C. Newman’s sugary popcraft.

I was lucky to see The New Pornographers earlier this year – they played in early March, just before New Zealand went into coronavirus lockdown. With eight albums to draw from, including 2019’s very good In the Morse Code of Brake Lights, Twin Cinema was only represented by three songs. Nevertheless, Twin Cinema highlights like ‘The Bleeding Heart Show’ and ‘The Bones of an Idol’ still sounded great.


  1. Yay Canada! A good writeup of what seems to be a really good album… I remember seeing it and hearing a couple of tracks on radio but even up in Canada (mind you, Toronto not Vancouver) they were a “marginal” band when it came to commercial success. Which is a shame because everything I’ve heard suggests they should be better known.

  2. I know their songs more than particular albums…from my never-ending search for more power pop. I’ve really liked what I’ve heard so far. Thanks for the review, Graham.

  3. Nice pick, Graham! While I’ve heard a few of Neko Case’s tunes, I know nothing about this band. The tunes you highlighted sound great. You probably won’t be shocked when I tell you their harmony singing is quite appealing to me. It’s also nice to see a more recent album (i.e., 21st Century) enter the draft!

  4. I enjoyed those samples. I’ve heard of this group, and thought I’d recognize at least some of the music when I heard it, but no it doesn’t sound familiar. I’m glad to know about them. They have a good sound. Congrats to you, getting to see them in a concert this year before the cancellations started rolling out. It is nice to have 21st century music in the draft. And this band has a timeless sound. They could be from any decade of the past 40+ years.

  5. All 3 of those cuts are excellent, Graham. I *love* the video of the Spanish techno one. Just checked and my library system has several of their CDs (now on their way to me.) First time hearing of the band or the music and appreciate learning about good new music. Great addition to the line-up.

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