September 23, 2019 The New Pornographers – In the Morse Code of Brake Lights (Album Review)
Coming out of Vancouver, British Columbia over two decades ago, The New Pornographers are set to return with their new album, In the Morse Code of Brake Lights. Slated for release on Friday, September 27th, it marks The New Pornographers’ eight studio album and first release via the band’s own Collected Work Records imprint in partnership with Concord Records.
A relatively quick follow-up to 2017’s Whiteout Conditions for the eight-artist collective – Carl Newman (vocals, guitar), Neko Case (vocals), John Collins (bass), Blaine Thurier (keyboards, synthesizer), Todd Fancey (lead guitar), Kathryn Calder (vocals, keyboards, guitar), Joe Seiders (drums, vocals), and Simi Stone (violin, vocals) – In the Morse Code of Brake Lights is complete with eleven new tracks.
Starting with the slow build-up of the starry-sounding “You’ll Need a Backseat Driver,” exuding early ’70s Pop sensibilities, it is followed by the slightly more upbeat, Doo-Wop-inspired recent single “The Surprise Knock.” However, this only reverts to a similar mood as the opening track, in the form of the album’s lead single “Falling Down the Stairs of Your Love.” Then there is “Colossus of Rhodes,” which begins unassumingly like a piano ballad but immediately bursts into glittery beats and splinters of Synthpop proportions.
Changing the pace and style, “Higher Beam” features a subtly Baroque Pop with its string orchestration, exuding hints of Belle and Sebastian (“The Same Star”) or even The Waterboys (“Nearest Thing to Hip”) when the Scottish bands are being bluesy and melodramatic. This orchestral trajectory carries onto “Dreamlike and on the Rush,” standing out as it highlights The New Pornographers’ trademark male-female vocal interplay. This is while the ensuing piano ballad “You Won’t Need Those Where We’re Going” then strums some sad heartstrings in the sentimental core of the listener—short, simple, and poignant.
The New Pornographers turn poppy and sunny once again with the dancey and catchy stompers “Need Some Giants” and “Opening Ceremony,” both of which swim in the same chord progression and marching rhythm. Thereafter, “One Kind of Solomon” rocks the boat and shakes the waves as it undulates tunefully and ripples playfully. Lastly, they conclude their comparatively less complex new batch of tracks with the big, celebratory, and anthemic sound of “Leather on the Seat”—a perfect closer for a stylistically cohesive albeit liberally diverse album.
Going strong twenty years later, The New Pornographers are still up and running, continually pushing the boundaries of Canadian Rock music and producing both groundbreaking and roots-grounded records. In the Morse Code of Brake Lights is another worthy addition not only to the collective discography, but also to the individual endeavors talents of each member. That is why Cryptic Rock gives this album 4 out of 5 stars.