Whiteout Conditions

The New Pornographers

Concord Music Group, 2017


REVIEW BY: Ludwik Wodka


Supergroups normally don’t last for very long. Usually, after the buzz of working together wears off, they all go back to their respective bands or move on to other things. However, there are always exceptions to every rule, and the exception here is The New Pornographers, who have been convening at somewhat regular intervals for the last 17 years. Their latest album, Whiteout Conditions, is their seventh full-length release.

The Vancouver, B.C. ensemble is headed by principal songwriter A.C. Newman, and includes the likes of Neko Case (solo artist), John Collins (The Evaporators), Blaine Thurier (independent filmmaker), Todd Fancey (Limblifter), Kathryn Calder (solo artist), and Joe Seiders (Beat Club). Even though there have been several members cycling in and out of this group over the years, long-time contributor Dan Bejar (of Destroyer) is sitting this one out. He is noteworthy in that the songs he contributed had a distinctive sound, adding something different to the song list.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As much as I love these guys, and as quick as I am to acknowledge how many flat-out classic songs they have recorded, I must also confess that not everything they touch turns to gold. It seems that every album they have put out so far is about 50% great, 50% forgettable. Whiteout Conditions measures about the same.

The album opens with the allegro “Play Money,” on which Neko Case takes the lead on vocals. With this track, you are assured right away that once again, The New Pornographers is sticking closely to their well-established brand of synth-based, high-energy pop. Everything is here: the hooks, the energy, the harmonies, and the tightly constructed arrangements, and the song kicks the album off with a lively start.

Third cut “High Ticket Attractions” stands out as one of the best moments on the album with its spiraling verse and soaring chorus. The synthesizers really stand out on this and add some really interesting flourishes to the song.

Another album highlight, “This Is The World Of The Theater” offers strong hooks amidst a complex song structure, showing off this band at their best.

Other standouts include “Darling Shade” and the odd-but-compelling “Juke.” In the case of the latter, almost the whole song (except for the bridge) consists of a single, droning chord. Nonetheless, it works because of the strength of the melodies.

There are some soft spots on this album nonetheless. Even though they may have all the ingredients in place, they somehow just don’t pack the same punch as the others. These include “Avalanche Alley,” “Second Sleep,” and the slower “We’ve Been Here Before.” Nonetheless, they still are still strong enough to make this a cohesive album.

Beyond Bejar’s absence, there are no surprises on this album. The New Pornographers once again proves their ability to turn out decent albums out with remarkable consistency. What is most remarkable is how long they’ve been pulling it off.

Rating: B

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