Published Sep 24, 2019In the past half-decade, the New Pornographers have enjoyed a return to form. Surprisingly, bandleader Carl Newman has achieved this by moving his supergroup onto more stable ground; losing and replacing bandmembers, settling into a stable lineup, helming the boards himself and taking on core songwriting duties.
Luckily, the Vancouverite's eighth LP still sounds like a classic New Pornos album, as Newman writes hooky verses that move into even hookier choruses, while co-lead vocalist Neko Case's melodies continue to soar over buoyant rhythms. The good news is that Newman's chops are as savvy and slick as ever, as tracks like the bombastic Case-led "You'll Need a New Backseat Driver," lead single "Falling Down the Stairs of Your Smile" and the pulsing "One Kind of Solomon" can enthusiastically attest.
But the fact that all 11 of the LP's songs were written by one person slightly hampers the album's sense of adventure, and Case's phrasings no longer pop and stand out like they used to. Unfortunately, the octet's attempts to add musical flair to each song draws mixed reactions, as the synthetic strings of "Colossus of Rhodes" and "Leather on the Seat" give each song depth, but feel too high in the mix, to the point of distraction.
But despite any nitpicky issues one may find with In the Morse Code of Brake Lights, it's refreshing to see the New Pornographers, 20 years into their existence, still trying to swing for the fences. (Collected Works / Concord)