You didn't ask for it, but here's my opinion: No one on earth has written more great pop-rock songs over the past 15 years than A.C. (Carl) Newman, leader of the New Pornographers. But if the occasional slog of 2010's Together felt like the first sign of weakness in Newman's unimpeachable pop-rock kingdom, the band's new record, Brill Bruisers, is an exhilarating return to form. It's got a handful of the perfectly crunchy confections we've come to expect from the New Pornos ("Dancehall Domine," "Fantasy Fools"), but elsewhere the band dials back the guitars and rides a (new) wave through its catchiest batch of tunes in a decade. "Champions of Red Wine" and "Marching Orders" pair Neko Case's divine vocals with trippy synth arpeggios, while "Backstairs" has a shadowy '70s vibe, and "Wide Eyes" and "Hi-Rise" revolve around pillowy, baroque choruses. Even detached Dan Bejar breaks out of type with two songs—"War on the East Coast" and "Born with a Sound"—that really rock. But the conductor, as always, is Newman, a man with an incredible gift for memorably odd turns of phrase, unshakeable melodies, and lavish arrangements. Brill Bruisers is greater than the sum of the New Pornos' parts, and that's saying something. BEN SALMON
1332 W Burnside, Portland, OR 97209
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