Released August 26, 2014
By Alex Southey
On the New Pornographers’ sixth studio album, much of the emotions explored are positive. A.C. Newman, the band’s primary songwriter, described the depression he was battling and that this album not only helped him overcome it, but helped him celebrate what he found inside of it all (Source).
The title track, Brill Bruisers, is what a long-time fan would expect from The New Pornographers: a loud chorus that starts off the song with a main hook, and no real break from the explosion of guitars this band has become known for. But, with second track, Champions of Red Wine, you are immediately taken on a detour into the unexpected. Although the predictable fuzz of guitar is underneath, what dominates the Champions of Red Wine are the vocals and the accompanying squeak of descending keyboard notes. There are inflections of the disco genre throughout the song, playing on the break in seventies rock when prog became popular and influential in the mainstream. War On The East Coast is a fun track, with palm-muted electric guitar chords and some studio effects buzzed in above it all. After the first verse, and the drums kick in with their groovy snare-based rhythm. Backstairs dives directly in to the electronic part of the album’s experimentation and sways between dissonant guitar chords and keyboard style-infused vocals. It lays itself out peacefully, despite the heavy undertone of the rhythm section.
The second half of the album in some ways deviates in style from the first. While perhaps not entirely cohesive, the second half definitely contains good songs, like Wide Eyes (a male-female duet and something to dance to), Spidyr (with its own harmonica section and flashing, clever vocals), and You Tell Me Where. You Tell Me Where, a unifying piece, ends the way Brill Bruisers came in, with rambunctious drums and group vocals in the chorus. It’s a singalong and puts the end of the album on a positive, upward slant. The New Pornographers knew to end their album with a bang instead of a whimper, leaving a good impression rather than something tired. It works with Brill Bruisers because instead of wanting a slow-moving album to end, the final track recalls the excitement of the beginning of the album and invites the listener to click replay.