The New Pornographers have always been our favorite consistently palatable indie power-pop group. Though their albums are never drastically different from the previous, subtle changes allow them to explore the intricacies of their sound, yielding complex, vocally layered pieces like “Fantasy Fools“ and simple, pounding hits like “Bill Bruisers.” Thus, they return with their always pleasing, and this time slightly grungier synth-powered sound with their new album White Out Conditions (2017).
The album starts with a fuzzy guitar and synth call-and-response on “Play Money,” quickly met with driving bass, female vocals, and a twinkling flute-like riff on top. The song is a tune of money-driven debauchery and forward motion, and a perfect album opener all around. The beginning of the album stays with this theme, with “Whiteout Attractions” holding onto the same driving guitar and synth, but leaning more into a shoegaze-y nostalgia and less optimistic subject matter, and with “High Ticket Attractions” then following up a little heavier. Track 4 and 5, “This is the World of the Theatre” and “Darling Shade,” use their stature as mid-album tracks to indulge a little more in showcasing the band’s compositional talent, with the guitar on “Darling Shade” reminding me almost of a King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard track. In fact, “Darling Shade” is undoubtedly my favorite song on the album, likely for the fact that it is also the grungiest. By “Second Sleep” and “Colosseums,” the band’s sound bounces back a little bit sweeter, with “We’ve Been Here Before” indulging in harmonies and amorphous keys for an angelic, revelation track. The album slows down towards the end with a more psychedelic-tinged sound on “Juke” and “Clock Wise,” delving into echoing harmonies and playful rhythms. Thus, by the end Whiteout Conditions comes full circle to The New Pornographers we’re used to with “Avalanche Alley,” a resolving track sprinkled with distanced vocals and their signature pounding guitar. However, all of these shifts are subtle, making the album great for casual listening but also open to interpretation and indulgence.
Overall, the album is perfect for the long top-down drives that we all dream of at the start of summer. Though not shockingly different from The New Pornographers’ past works, the album does seem to capture an amount of gained perspective and perfectionism that comes with the band’s now 17-year long career. Complete with an already released video and interactive music video for “High Ticket Attractions” the album is set to be a characteristic one. It might be their best album yet.
Written by Veronica Irwin