The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions
– out now
3.5 / 5
To understand our frustrations with the New Pornographers’ latest album, we’re going to have to summon two older ones of theirs. So, frustration: Whiteout Conditions, while perhaps one of their best albums in terms of performances, and in terms of musical ability, feels cluttered with too many sounds. Literally. It’s a fun album, yes, but perhaps one of the weakest in their 17-year repertoire. And while we tend to appreciate layering and depth of sound, we find a lot of these extra sonic bits to be extraneous. Let’s bring in that earlier album first to talk about this.
Twin Cinema, from 2005, is definitely rougher. It’s sonically a lot less advanced, we’ll say, and hails from their earlier electro-punk background. (Punk being the genre where it’s better not to know how to play your instruments – Editor’s Note.) The songwriting on Twin Cinema more than makes up for a bit of thinness in their instrumentation: songs like “Stacked Crooked” we’ll take any day over Whiteout’s overproduced “Juke.” Their next two albums we’re going to say are the best balance of instrumentation, ability and songwriting: 2007’s Challengers and 2010’s Together. Both are performed brilliantly, mixed well (a good handful of peppy tracks with a couple quieter, introspective ones), and great albums to come back to again and again. To compare apples to apples, Challengers’ title track has balance and restraint; Whiteout‘s “We’ve Been Here Before,” while our favorite off the new album, could be a bit more bare, without some of the spacey sounds. This track is the simplest off Whiteout, and while the most enjoyable, still feels a little overwrought, especially in the fade-away.
Simply put, the New Pornographers are trying too hard; but for a band going on seventeen years, they still have one of the most consistent discographies in the industry. For all our hemming and hawing, recommended; we’d just suggest checking out earlier albums first.
Listen to them New Pornographers on the ole Soundcloud.