An Incomplete History of the New Pornographers' Fourth-Best Album

Still better than anything you've done this year.

Sometime in 1997 A.C. Newman, Blaine Thurier, Dan Bejar, John Collins, Kathryn Calder, Kurt Dahle, Neko Case, and Todd Fancey form an indie-rock band based out of Vancouver, B.C., called The New Pornographers, only to spend the rest of their lives fruitlessly arguing that the outfit isn't a "supergroup."

Nov. 21, 2000 Debut album Mass Romantic is released, and though to this day it's widely considered the New Pornographers' best work, it's also their only disc not to chart. Exhibiting enough spontaneity, attitude, and helplessly catchy pop melodies to complement the cheekily melodramatic lyrics and heavy layering, the record becomes generally accepted as one of the best of the decade.

May 6, 2003 Where the first album sounds more like a gang of friends recording songs over a case of Molson (certainly not a bad thing), sophomore effort Electric Version has a more polished vibe from having been recorded over a couple of years. Plus there's a monkey in a spaceship on the cover. Wearing a spacesuit.

Aug. 23, 2005 Competing with Mass Romantic for the title of "best record from Vancouver," Twin Cinema better balances the bandmates' strengths while continuing to weave together smart lyrics and exuberant harmonies. Indie pop hasn't been this captivating since, well, November 21, 2000.

Aug. 21, 2007 Challengers is released, debuting higher on the charts than any of its predecessors did—an especially ironic achievement considering it's the weakest album in the New Pornographers' catalog. Murmurs spread of a collaboration that has lost its spark.

May 4, 2010 The sunnier and more energetic Together, the octet's best work in five years, proves they weren't throwing in the towel. With help from Will Sheff of Okkervil River, Annie Clark of St. Vincent, the Dap-Kings, and Zach Condon of Beirut, the conventional wisdom about "too many cooks in the kitchen" is proven completely irrelevant. It might be Newman's show to run, but fans and critics alike are excited to finally see Case in a more prominent role—though maybe still not prominent enough—and songs like "Your Hands (Together)" have the exclamation-point feeling that fueled the band's rise.

July 31 & Aug. 1, 2010 The band is scheduled to perform a two-night series at Showbox at the Market.

music@seattleweekly.com

 
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