The New Pornographers mark the start of their third decade with seventh album ‘Whiteout Conditions’, an energetic and exhausting triumph.
If you stare at The New Pornographers band promo pictures long enough, they start looking a bit like a dysfunctional, but ultimately loving family. In any case, it’s clear that the many different members of this group, from various musical backgrounds, come together to have fun and make what is, if nothing else, a very enjoyable listening experience. Whiteout Conditions is their seventh studio release that keeps things similar enough to fans while still adding a few new touches to keep things interesting.
The album straight away kicks off at a fast pace with ‘Play Money’ which showcases both the stronger and weaker points of the entire album. The song has both catchy hooks and witty lyrics, taking a stab at those capitalist pigs, pop musicians, and their greed. The sound texture of the synthesisers is in your face but not annoying. However, it lasts for over four and a half minutes, when, given the musical material it has, it could have been a two-minute song. The instrumental doesn’t give you a chance to catch your breath, it just keeps going, differentiating between the verse of the chorus by adding and subtracting instruments, but never by means of dynamics or harmonic shifts. And the non-stop, amped up, quarter note synthesizers become just a bit much to handle.
The following titular track ‘Whiteout Conditions’ is not necessarily an answer to the lack-of-a-breather problem, but it does contain some of the best lyrics every written by A.C. Newman. Clearly one of the more personal songs on the album, it’s written in the point of view of a depressive episode, containing deceptively cheerfully sung moments such as “Flying and feeling the ceiling / And barely dealing / And the faces, the faintest of praises / Are too revealing / Such a waste of a beautiful day”. Newman and Kathryn Calder share a lot of the vocals on the song (as well as on the rest of the album) and their voices sound pleasantly unique together. ‘High Ticket Attractions’ sounds like it could be on Rocky Horror Picture Show. ‘This Is The World Of The Theatre’ contains charming harmonising between the different vocalists of the band and ‘Darling Shade’ has a very ‘90s sounding guitar riff in juxtaposition with the very ‘80s sounding synths. You couldn’t single out one song as being bad or out of place.
But after the seventh of eighth consecutive song of up-tempo synths, with no slower or more sparse tracks in between, it all starts to assimilate into one big fast paced ‘get psyched’ mix, which says something good about the consistency of the release, but also something less about the memorability of the different songs. A few hours after listening to it for the first couple of times I could only remember how ‘Whiteout Conditions’ sounded like. Maybe vaguely ‘Darling Shade’ too. Not much else.
Whiteout Conditions is a decent album to say the least. It’s consistent and fun to listen to, and fans of the band will definitely be on firm footing and find plenty to enjoy here. If it had been a bit sparser here and there or some songs hadn’t overstayed their welcome, it would’ve been one of the best albums on their discography. (7/10) (Ellie Wolf)
Listen to Whiteout Conditions here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, Blaine Thurier, Carl Newman, Concord, Dan Bejar, Ellie Wolf, Joe Seiders, John Collins, Kathryn Calder, Neko Case, review, The New Pornographers, Todd Fancey, Whiteout Conditions
Currently studying Mathematics and Music at Leeds University. Generally a fan of all things musical, cultural, and pretentious. Values aesthetic way too much.
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