Monday, August 06, 2007

New Pornographers - Challengers



Download: Removed by request of the label
Download: Removed by request of the label
Download: Removed by request of the label
Download: Removed by request of the label

The New Pornographers
Challengers (Matador, 2007)
Grade: A

Over the course of three highly infectious, new-wave influenced, indie-pop albums, The New Pornographers have been slowly, but surely, introducing hints of wistful melancholy. Furthermore, the band has been adding layers of instrumentation which would suggest that an already detailed-oriented group of songwriters are becoming even more advanced in their craft. Those steady artistic additions come to fruition with Challengers, the fourth record from the Canadian octet. It's an album which allows The New Pornographers to showcase its slower, more introspective side without losing the uncanny sense of melody and harmony that made the band so justly praised in the first place.

The New Pornographers aren't nearly as happy-go-lucky as they might seem on the musical surface (could any group with a song called "The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism" be considered as such?). But, save for the occasional song like "Mutiny, I Promise You" and "All The Things That Go To Heaven And Earth," Challengers represents the first time that The New Pornos have chosen to sustain a sadder, more reflexive, mood throughout an entire record.

From the opening strummed (harpsi?)chord and French horn line of "My Rights Versus Yours" to the achingly drawn-out group harmonies of "The Spirit of Giving," Challengers sounds like the group exploring sadness and managing to find something thrilling about it. But like most great groups, The New Pornographers manage to make the most hopeless feelings cathartic, whether it's the hushed title track or the heartbreaking "Unguided" (the former being sung impeccably by Neko Case, the later sung in the same way by Kathryn Calder ).

There are many sadly beautiful moments on Challengers that the listener can drink in like a finely aged wine. Even if the only good song on the record was "Myriad Harbor" (with its ingenious placement of Bob Dylan's harmonica over the Beach Boys-esque harmonies), that alone would still be worth the price of admission. Most songs on Challengers have nuanced orchestral touches (flutes, harp, strings, etc), which in turn help create a more contemplative version of The New Pornographers' sound. The result is sweet, meditative musical frosting on the cake of pensiveness.

An album that's titled Challengers may conjure up notions of the avant-garde but, rest assured, this record is anything but. Still, some Porno's fans may have a hard time adjusting to the shifts in the band's sound. All the reasons I heaped praise on the record were the exact reasons someone I had a conversation with recently gave for disliking the record. His was a valid opinion, but at the same time, it's also his loss because Challengers is a richly crafted, finely layered, record. Undoubtedly, it is one of the best records of the year and maybe even of the New Pornographers' career so far.

Pre-Order Challengers here.

(Jonathan Graef)

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7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

come on man, four tracks from an unreleased record is too many. it's great to promote it, but two at the most should be the limit in my humble opinion.

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just so you know, Unguided is sung by Carl and Kathryn, not Neko. Neko's probably in there somewhere though.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just so you know, Unguided is sung by Carl and Kathryn, not Neko. Neko's probably in there somewhere though.

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous-
thanks for the correction, it's been fixed.

Jon

5:28 PM  
Blogger theefamousperson said...

Hey! I'm happy to have the songs now, and then I'll get the album in material form later! Thanks for letting me listen!

12:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WEB SHERIFF
Protecting Your Rights
on the Internet
Tel 44-(0)208-323 8013
Fax 44-(0)208-323 8080
websheriff@websheriff.com
www.websheriff.com

WITHOUT PREJUDICE

Hi MFR,

On behalf of Matador Records and The New Pornographers, we would kindly ask you NOT to post newly released New Pornographers links on this site / thread.

We do appreciate that - of course - you are fans of / are promoting The New Pornographers but, by the same token, you must also appreciate that, by posting a pirate copy of the album or tracks from the album pre-release / upon release (or linking to pirate copies), you are potentially causing considerable inconvenience and we are sure that you would not want to be personally responsible (or liable) for all of the resulting damage and disruption.

Thank you for respecting the artist’s and label’s wishes and, if you want good quality, non-pirated preview tracks, “My Rights Versus Yours” and “Myriad Harbour” are being made freely available to fans off the label’s and artist’s official web-sites, (check-out www.matadorrecords.com and www.thenewpornographers.com for full details), which you are most welcome to host / post etc. Unfortunately, the tracks that you’ve selected are not designated, preview tracks and, as such, it would be greatly appreciated if you could remove them ASAP / substitute them with either or both of the above tracks.

Whilst writing, we’d add that The New Pornographers and Matador Records are not at all against free music BUT, at the end of the day, it should be (and is) the artist’s decision as to whether or not they effectively allow the unauthorized distribution of their album on-line before / upon its release - as it’s THEIR MUSIC !! Thank you, again, for respecting their wishes.

As you will appreciate, this e-mail - containing, as it does, a position that is potentially prejudicial to our clients’ open / formal position - is written on a without prejudice basis and, as such, all of our clients’ accumulated, worldwide rights remain strictly reserved : please excuse this required formality.

With Thanks & Regards,

WEB SHERIFF

1:41 PM  
Anonymous WEB SHERIFF said...

WEB SHERIFF
Protecting Your Rights
on the Internet
Tel 44-(0)208-323 8013
Fax 44-(0)208-323 8080
websheriff@websheriff.com
www.websheriff.com

WITHOUT PREJUDICE

Hi Ian,

Further to our previous post, please respect the artist's and label's wishes here.

As per our post, you are very welcome to post / host the non-pirated preview tracks, “My Rights Versus Yours” and “Myriad Harbour”, both of which are being made freely available to fans off the label’s and artist’s official web-sites, (check-out www.matadorrecords.com and www.thenewpornographers.com for full details). The FOUR (non-preview) tracks that you are hosting must, however, be removed.

Kindly revert to us ASAP.

Naturally, as a fan, we genuinely hope that further / enforcement action can be avoided.

Once Again, With Thanks & Regards,

WEB SHERIFF

6:54 PM  

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