Boomkat Product Review:
A genuinely wonderful new collection of songs from the New Pornographers sees principal songwriter AC Newman regrouping with Neko Case, Destroyer's Danny Bejar (whose album Rubies demands your attention immediately if it ain't already in your life) and a sizable supporting cast for what might well be their finest album yet. "Challengers" kicks off with the wonderful 'My Rights Versus Yours' which throws together some cor anglais, Jeff Lynn-approved vocoder and a simply magnificent verse melody - one of those rare, unspoiled tunes you'll swear you've known forever. Ouch. That's one heck of a way to start an indie rock record. Where to from here? Onwards to the implausibly convoluted string arrangements of 'All The Old Showstoppers', that's where. Yet still it gets better: the album's title track features a spinetingler of a vocal delivery courtesy of Ms. Case, and another drop-dead awesome melodic denouement. Daniel Bejar takes the helm on three tracks, the first of which is 'Myriad Harbour', a kind of hymn to New York that, true to form, is loaded with deftly observed lyrics about "all the boys with their homemade microphones" and "all the girls fallen to ruin, dropping out of school, breaking daddy's heart just to hang around." At the centre of the album lies the epic 'Unguided' that clocks up six-and-a-half minutes of orchestral bombast, but there are yet more gems to be mined: the album launches triumphantly into its final phase with 'Go Places' and 'Mutiny, I Promise You', two first class entries into the contemporary American songbook (by Canadians), referencing - by Newman's own admission - Jimmy Webb, Burt Bacharach and Brian Wilson in terms of baroque pop ambitiousness. It all ends on a bittersweet note however, with the swelling sadness of 'Adventures in Solitude' and Bejar's brilliant 'The Spirit Of Giving'. It's still a bit early to be throwing such comments around, but Challengers seems destined to rank as one of the very best albums of the year.