Lots of people are doing lists of their favorite things from 2010, and I have done my share of those as well. And while I didn’t listen to enough new music to make a top-ten list, I did want to share what was probably my favorite album of the year: The New Pornographers’ Together.
This kind of music is very close to my own musical sensibilities—anyone who has listened to my stuff (and heard me sing alongside my own lovely redheaded co-singer Lindsay) can probably pretty easily tell that I’m a longtime fan of the band. Not that I chose to sing with Lindsay because she bears a superficial resemblance to Neko, I just… oh, you know what I’m saying. At any rate, Together is the Pornographers doing what they do so well: punchy, complex pop tunes with great melodies. It’s immaculately paced and listenable in the way that so many of my favorite records are—I put it on and before I know it, it’s over.
I wasn’t into their last album, Challengers; I thought it lost a lot of the drive and energy of their earlier albums. It was partly the softer, wider audio production, and partly just the songwriting. Together is a return to form—the album almost explicitly follows the template set forth in Electric Version. And like fellow DIY indies The Shins, The Pornographers have figured out how to mix their records so that each instrument has its own space (clustercuss mixes are a common problem for indie artists, myself included).
My favorite songs are all but impossible to choose. “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” does that “New Face of Zero and One” shuffle thing, and it does it better than ever; “Valkyrie at the Roller Disco” is gorgeous and well-arranged. The closing track, “We End Up Together,” brings the whole record together (yes, together) in a grand-finale manner that they’ve never quite pulled off before. It’s also arguably the peak of AC Newman’s three-bar-phrase approach to building tense, looping verses.
Every song goes above and beyond to really give listeners something. Part of the Pornographers’ approach involves layering, repeated sections, but the songs on this album also feature codas, finales, unexpected breakdowns, lovely bridges. Despite the erudite lyrics and verbose indieness of it all, there’s a lot of heart on display.
I didn’t listen to that many new albums this year, but I was thankful for the stuff I did listen to, as well as for everyone who took the time to make music recommendations throughout the year. I hope you’ll all keep telling me stuff I should check out in 2011.
Happy New Year everyone!