Album review: The New Pornographers turn frenetic on Whiteout Conditions

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The New Pornographers

Pressing play on The New Pornographers’ seventh album, Whiteout Conditions, is akin to downing several shots of espresso, then riding out the 42-minute caffeine kick. The album, out April 7, is the first to be released on the band’s Collected Works Records. In the three years since releasing Brill Bruisers, the band has incorporated a more synthetic sound, while holding on to its recognizable melodies.

Whiteout Conditions
The New Pornographers
April 7

This incarnation of the band features founder and frontman A.C. Newman, Blaine Thurier, Dan Bejar, Joe Seiders, John Collins, Kathryn Calder, Neko Case and Todd Fancey. What’s intriguing about the band is that despite its rotating cast of members over the past 17 years, it has maintained a uniquely identifiable sound. Though Newman says the album was an effort to “try and rock in a different way,” Whiteout Conditions is distinctly a New Pornographers album: infectious pop songs that occasionally veer into rock.

The band’s frenetic pop is on display on the album’s opening track, “Play Money.” The synth-heavy melody mixed with Neko Case’s vocals and airy chorus provide an appropriate sonic introduction. “For a fee, I’ll fight any foe/ For a fee, I’ll take any blow,” Case sings in what is the lyrical equivalent of that motivational poster hanging on your manager’s office wall.

It segues nicely into the the next track, “Whiteout Conditions,” which Newman says was born out of a bout of depression. Leaning on the band’s signature duets, the fast-moving lyrics paint a desolate picture, especially in the chorus: “Suffering whiteout conditions/ Forget the mission, just get out alive.”

The New Pornographers, Waxahatchee 
8 p.m., Thursday, April. 13
Fox Theater
Tickets: $38

By comparison, “High Ticket Attractions” oozes energy. In what is easily the album’s standout track, Newman seemingly issues a call to action for his listeners: “You want to travel, want to unravel/ Take the experience to the next level.” Written before the Nov. 8 election, Newman says the song addresses the anxiety of what he calls “dangerous times.”

Whiteout Conditions continues with the group’s traditional pop until “Second Sleep,” a funky twist at the halfway point. Staccato and more experimental than the other tracks, it’s an indication of a change in tone for the remainder of the album. The following songs are a mix of pop-infused rock and blues, such as the bass-heavy, Newman-sung “Juke.” The album wraps up with the spacey and haunting “Avalanche Alley.” Pumped full of energy, it’s a satisfying conclusion to another successful outing by a band that has kept indie-rock fans bouncing for nearly two decades now.

Follow journalist Brandi Smith on TwitterFacebook and BrandiSmith.me.

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