The New Pornographers
In the Morse Code of Brake Lights
Where to start with what I like about this? That the band’s fusion of Game Theory and ELO is wonderful. That Carl Newman’s lyrics are as sharp as ever. That Neko’s, Kathryn’s, Joe’s and new member Simi Stone’s singing is great.
Now for some details. The lyrics are meant to be political and romantic at the same time, maybe sexual politics, and therefore are intriguing. They remind me of Scott Miller’s best writing, like on Game Theory's Real Nighttime album.
The music is more ELO. Like ELO, the strings, whether Simi’s violin or a string section, give the music new textures. It’s reminiscent of the cello on TNP's Together album, but more campy.
As for Dan not being on the album, to be very honest, I think the band is better off without him. I always felt that his songs, in the context of the albums, were too jarring, because his lyrics are so different from Carl’s. I love some of his songs, like War On the East Coast, but the self-explanatory Entering White Celia is one of my least favorites. There is a flow and smoothness to this album that wasn’t there before, and I find it quite appealing. Even as some of the lyrics are dark, they are soothing and uplifting anyway.
Overall this album is more pop than rock. It has the rock elements of Mass Romantic and the pop elements of Electric Version, but also syth-pop, and fewer guitars, adding up to a new sound. For me, that seals it as one of the best of the year.