In the age of cookie cutter sounds and the rampant oversampling of previous decade hits, The New Pornographers make retro cool again. With influences from ’70s synth music and pop heavy ’80s lyrics, Brill Bruisers has brought back the sound that Pornographer fans are accustom to hearing. This is the sixth studio album by the indie rock super-group out of Canada and arguably their best since their breakthrough album “Twin Cinema.”
The seven-member band is headed by Carl Newman but often Dan Bejar, Neko Case and Kathryn Calder share the responsibilities of lead vocals. This interchangeability is heard throughout “Brill Bruisers” with tracks being sung by all sorts of combinations of singers.
All members in The New Pornographers have musical side projects they focus on. Neko Case is the most notable, having worked with Andrew Bird and Jakob Dylan, folksinger Bob Dylan’s son, in recent years. “Brill Bruisers” sounds like a celebration of the band members’ successes in their individual careers.
The opening track is a poppy anthem that echoes throughout the album. “And now we know how to never go back,” Newman yells as the first song comes to a close, and it is true. The New Pornographers keep marching forward. They don’t look back and with every song they continue to build and grow stronger as the album goes on.
The second track sounds like The New Pornographers took a page out of their Canadian counterpart Arcade Fire’s book with Case and Newman singing back and forth in “Champions of Red Wine.”
“Fantasy Fools,” the third track, also has an Arcade Fire feel to it with the slow building synthesizer sounds of Case and Calder singing the chorus over the danceable background beats.
The album takes on a decidedly different feel with the fourth track as Newman takes control of lead vocals and sings the anthem “War on the East Coast,” a moodier song reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie that pushes the album forward and into the very Daft Punk feel of “Backstairs,” where it goes back to being dance pop music.
The album sweeps from track to track and continues to hit the listeners with pop ballads throughout, an obvious nod to the album’s title.
The New Pornographers choice of “Brill Bruisers” for their album title is a reference to the famous recording studio The Brill Building in New York. Many hits churned out of The Brill Building in the ’60s and ’70s and focused mainly on big bands and pop music.
The Brill Building was a one-stop shop for musicians. The building held recording studios, writers, producers and record labels. If a musician wanted to, they could complete an entire album without ever leaving the building.
The New Pornographers took a step outside of themselves when creating this album. They produced something that acknowledges their band’s history and the history of the popular music industry.
Not only did they acknowledge this but they masterfully created something that continues the conversation of popular music and where it is currently heading in America.
No, these aren’t the pop music musicians of your parent’s time in college, but they continue the tradition of making meaningful music to the masses. Instead of the bubble gum pop that is played on repeat on the radio, this band is trying to steer pop music in the right direction.
For anyone who is new to The New Pornographers, this is the perfect introductory album to give a listen. After one play through, you will be hooked.