Album of the Week: The New Pornographers, 'Whiteout Conditions'


The New Pornographers, 'Whiteout Conditions'
The New Pornographers, 'Whiteout Conditions' (Concord Music Group)
Mac Wilson - Album of the Week: The New Pornographers, 'Whiteout Conditions'
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The New Pornographers have always felt a little too good to be true: a confluence of fantastic musicians and songwriters, with a seemingly endless stream of hooks, riffs, and unforgettable tunes. Whether during their fevered barnstorming in the mid-2000s, or via the elegaic feel of their more recent records, there has always been a feeling that any New Pornographers album has the potential to be their last. Their newest album, Whiteout Conditions, sheds this feeling, but at the expense of what has made the band such an enduring franchise.

This is the band's first album without founding drummer Kurt Dahle, and their first without contributions — songwriting or otherwise — from Dan Bejar, whose recording with his band Destroyer apparently conflicted with the New Pornographers' schedule this time around. Bejar's contributions to the band had increasingly seemed vestigial or even nonessential, but his absence looms over all of Whiteout Conditions. Whether or not his tunes were the best on any given album (they rarely were), it's apparent that his voice provided just the off-kilter twist that allowed a New Pornographers album to breathe. This effect means that Whiteout Conditions plays out in a more homogenous fashion than any prior album.

This flow of the album would not be as crucial if the songs were of a high enough quality. Unfortunately, the highs of the album aren't quite enough to balance out the lows of the low. Mind you, the lows on a New Pornographers album means that they are just forgettable at worst, which is still a sin that would once have seemed unthinkable for a band of their caliber. While this means that no songs are outright bad, it's almost equally damning to consider them unmemorable.

I'm happy that the New Pornographers have not at any point prior to now decided that they were making their final album, and on that basis the release of Whiteout Conditions is another gift from a terrific band — decent new New Pornographers music is better than none at all. I'm hopeful, though, that in the future, Bejar can eventually make a triumphant comeback and take over the role of returning hero. If anything, the release of Whiteout Conditions ensures that the band behind one of modern rock's greatest back catalogues will live on, bashing forward one pop tune at a time.


The New Pornographers - official site

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