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“Auxiliary Post: Potential Best of The New Pornographers Collection”

I’ve just been taken by something: when you search “The New Pornographers” on pitchfork, you get six results for “Album Reviews,” one for each of their six albums. I could see John Peel even sitting over in England and going, Yup, that production’s pretty good, not sure how anyone would top that.

And I can’t say I’m really BURNING for a best-of collection by them, especially seeing as I own all their albums and have listened to each one obsessively, to moderately, in the case of Brill Bruisers, but logic itself suggests it’s surprising that by now there’s not one. It just seems like some dude in a leather jacket in the Pacific Northwest would have curated one by now.
Here’s how I’d have it out:
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{from Mass Romantic}
1 The Fake Headlines
2 Mystery Hours
3 To Wild Homes
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Wrote Richard M. Juzwiak in his pitchfork review of Mass Romantic, sounding at times like a jaded, sadistic individual having grown up hitting cement blocks in a pedagogical tabernacle of music snobbery: “(The New Pornographers’) pop is saccharine, and at times, even smarmy. It’s over-the-top, but not quite beautifully absurd.” He should get extra credit for this quip, in addition to its terseness sounding every bit worthy of The Village Voice, for the fact that this is the very quality that would come to define Mass Romantic as juxtaposed with the rest of their albums, in hindsight. One particularly brilliant thing he says is “On an album this consistently enjoyable, it’s difficult to pick out highlights… the record is constructed and assembled with such cohesiveness that individual moments within songs stand out and raise the bar from infectious pop fun to raw glory.” Despite the edification that Juzwiak’s observation inspires here, I’d still tend to disagree: “The Fake Headlines” just sloths around too narcotically, with too perfect of a chord progression, and too crisp of a hold and release fired off in the chorus.
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{from Electric Version}
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4 Chump Change
5 Testament to Youth in Verse
6 Miss Teen Wordpower
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Two Bejar numbers ornament from this album, in my book. The orchestral vocal outro to “Testament to Youth in Verse” is one of the best musical moments of the whole ’00’s decade. And then it just seemed fitting to pick the other literarily themed installment to close things out, “Miss Teen Wordpower”: “Nobody knows the wreck of the soul / The way you do / The way you do / Miss Teen Wordpower.”
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{from Twin Cinema}
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7 Twin Cinema
8 The Bones of an Idol
9 Use it
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Twin Cinema, in my opinion, is a perfect album. The only way it seemed fitting to cull from it was to just go with the first three songs, as if blind. And blinded you are, before this beacon of awe and melody.
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{from Challengers}
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10 Failsafe
11 Adventures in Solitude
12 The Spirit of Giving
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New Pornographers vocalist number four up to this point, Kathryn Calder, niece of A.C. Newman, delivers a chillingly savvy performance on “Failsafe,” complete with the nonchalant declaration to be “Signing the check with a name that’s not mine”. “Adventures in Solitude” is one of those songs that’s so simple and real that it immediately gets permanently ingrained in the listener’s mind, as a place maybe not necessarily to try to go, but just to acknowledge, as an outer reach of truth by way of stark, unrelenting loneliness.
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{from Together}
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13 Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk
14 My Shepherd
15 A Bite out of My Bed
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We’re getting to the latter point in their career here, and so it seems fitting that their ability to stir emotion has only ignited: enter “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk,” which above all is another great Pornos song, but thematically treats an individual “so fair” caught in these complex modern times.
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{from Brill Bruisers}
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16 Brill Bruisers
17 Another Drug Deal of the Heart
18 Dancehall Domine
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Hearing the titled track to this album made me proud right away to be a New Pornographers fan. This is a band I’d been going to bat for for some time, imbibing Newman’s solo material as well, and really holding them sovereign as the torch-bearing crafters of melody. From “Most of Us Prizefighters” on through the motionless perfection of “Adventures in Solitude,” and now through this energetic opener, this band changes the meaning of “m.o.” to “mind opening.” They make you wonder what anthems are really for, especially since they’re so underutilized and overlooked by the commercial mainstream… luckily, they happen to be a great live band, and their concerts are a platform for good people to collect on, and indulge in something that takes us one step closer to celestial providence.

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