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.