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On first listen I was struck by the prevalence of retro-sounding synthesizers. The New Pornographers have always incorporated plenty of pop styles of the past, but as someone scarred by 80s pop music I tend to have allergic reactions to certain sounds. After a couple of spins of Brill Bruisers, however, the keyboard lines played by Blaine Thurier and Kathryn Calder not only started to make sense but revealed themselves to be integral parts of many songs: the up-and-down pointillistic notes that lace "Champions of Red Wine," one of the album's requisite gems sung by Neko Case; the cascading accents that complement the chugging guitar patterns in Bejar's "War on the East Coast"; and the opening part (to say nothing of the vocoders) of "Backstairs," which seems closer to something by Alan Parsons Project than Heaven 17. The group's patchwork appropriation has never been more seamlessly integrated nor sounded so new, even if it has nothing in common with the bulk of contemporary pop music. But as I wrote above it's the melodies that keep me riveted. As someone who's always been less enthralled with Bejar's tunes, one of my favorites here is his "Born With a Sound," which features a killer duet with Amber Webber of Lightning Dust that imparts the perfect degree of weariness.
The New Pornographers headline the Riviera on Friday night. Below you can watch the video for "Dancehall Domine," another highpoint of the album.
Brigitte Fontaine, Areski, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Comme a la Radio (Saravah)
Date Palms, Dusted Sessions (Thrill Jockey)
Grumbling Fur, Glynnaestra (Thrill Jockey)
Ashley Monroe, Like a Rose (Warner Bros.)
Nico, The End (Island)