I can’t remember if I’ve ever been able to listen to as much of Jon Solomon’s 25-hour #WPRBXmas as I did this year. It was fantastic as usual and produced some great quotes from my sister-in-law.
A big part of why I tuned out on the New Pornographers was around the time “Challengers” was released. It got a 6.0 from Pitchfork and my memory of that album at the time was just that it lacked the unsustainable punch of their earlier records. Carl talked to Tom Scharpling about this right before he released “Shut Down the Streets” and it was deeply affecting for all the reasons you can imagine.
Carl revived that thread with a series of tweets. and it’s kind of delightful through the wincing.
Flash forward and the band is touring and doing press on their new record, “In the Morse Code of the Brake Lights.” Newman has been curating amazing power pop on Twitter and sharing gems like this cover of a brand new GBV song in case you wondered why we really don’t deserve a band this good.
Spend some time with their new album and their catalog now that it’s getting colder and you’re stuck indoors.
I met Grails in Fishtown, before or after a show upstairs at the old Circle of Hope on Frankford, I don’t quite remember. The show itself was phenomenal. They were out in support of Â 2007’s Black Tar Prophecies Vol 1–3, a collection I really enjoyed and a sound NPR Music’s Lars Gotrich describes as “doomy Americana.”
He’s not wrong. After I heard, Earth’s great 2005 album Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method, I was intoxicated by this sound. For the uninitiated, imagine an instrumental soundtrack to True Detective Season 1. For me, it was a counterpoint to what had started to frustrate me about freak folk popular at the time.
The guys themselves were really great. I planned to interview them, but Fishtown Tavern was way too loud, so we ended up talking about music and shouting at each other like the regulars. I’d later catch them when they came through on subsequent tours and was surprised to see Emil Amos’ holding down the drums for the mighty Om.
Chalice Hymnal, their first record since 2011, is out in a few weeks. Checking out the new tunes on Temporary Residence’s Soundcloud, it’s a departure from that doomy Americana sound. The title track has elements of dub that were completely unexpected.
“Deep Snow II” is more of the foreboding pastoral I fell in love with when I first heard the band. It’sÂ less witchy and more space rock than the stuff they were doing 10 years ago, but it’s familiar in its tone and mood.
If there’s something I especially love about 2017 musically, it’s that so many of the bands I loved as a music critic are getting back together and making fantastic music. Grails are no exception.
The New Pornographers are an international treasure. Everything I wrote in this post I want to take back. Their only crime was giving us so much joy. You have no idea how elated I was to find their new song, “High Ticket Attractions,” from their forthcoming record, Whiteout Conditions, posted to YouTube.
“High Ticket Attractions” picks up where Brill Bruisers left off: uptempo, vocal interplay between Carl Newman and Neko Case, loaded with buzzy fun. It’s exactly what you’re looking for from them and they deliver.
The New Pornographers are headed out on tour in support. Shame they’re not coming to Detroit this time around, but if they’re coming to your town, don’t miss them. I regret every time I did. I’m hard pressed to think of a band that’s better at banter.
When I think about the artists I grew up listening to there are few I admire as much as Damon Albarn. Sure, much of that is owed to my year in Denmark, where I witnessed up close Blur’s battle with Oasis, but when I look back on that time, I still think The Great Escape held up much better than What’s the Story, Morning Glory?
(Before I get too far down that path, can we talk about how Gorillaz’ debut came out 16 years ago? This is like realizing the Jicks have been together longer than Pavement were.)
“Hallelujah Money” is their first record in six years. Can’t wait to hear what comes next.