This is not the old New Pornographers, this is the New Pornographers +1 (or two, considering they added two members to their already sizeable lineup for this album). Not to say that if you didn't enjoy their previous two albums, Mass Romantic and Electric Version, you won't like this one... but it is definitely different. Where the Vancouver ensemble's older albums are upbeat, bouncy, shake-your-ass marathons of sound, this album is a little slower, a little more thoughtful, a little toned down.
Now, I'm no NP devotee (fans, you may begin hating me in 3.. 2... 1), but I do keep several of their songs in heavy rotation on my most-used playlists. When my best pal Jason dropped this off for me tonight, I regarded it with a sigh and left it by the computer for a casual net-surfing listen. By the second time through, I was sold. For me, this is by no means a great, can't miss it album, but I have a feeling NP will be heard a little more frequently in the Monkeyhouse from here on out.
First, from the thumbs down portion: The title track, which opens the album, just doesn't do it for me. For the most part, I think NP really shine when the female vocalists step in to take the forefront. As this album is calmer and lighter than their previous releases, the vocals really needed to stand out a little more... and that really only coms through when Neko Case takes the mic, in my opinion. I'm similarly meh on "Broken Beads." It's rather shrill and repetitive to my ear, though it does feature some interesting lyrics. Just not a standout tune compared to some of the others. (That isn't to say I didn't find myself singing along... damn you, catchy pop music! I shake my fist in your general direction!)
However, the third song, "Use It" is where I start loving the fellas of NP again, just as much as I love the ladies. "Use It" grabbed my attention immediately. The staccato beat, which NP doesn't claim credit for (riffs from Iron Maiden and KISS are made over here with power pop glitz), is pitch perfect, and this tune features some of the most interesting lyrics on the album. How can you argue with "two sips from the cup of human kindness and I'm shitfaced?" You can't. But I was sold from "If you've got something that sheds some light/use it tonight." While a lot of the lyrics on Twin Cinema seem a little mindless (it's pop, kids, it ain't Shakespeare), this song really showcases the NP's songwriting abilities.