Critic's Choice

New Pornographers

The phrase "Feel-Good Summer Hit" doesn't make any sense at all. Summer doesn't feel good -- in fact, it's downright shitty, what with all the pit sweat and foot fungus and boiling garbage juice and blinding Caucasian leg meat. Spring is way better. Every beam of bright, warm sun is cut by a stiff, brisk breeze, and the dead smell of winter still clings to the undersides of bushes blushing green. That said, the New Pornographers' latest disc, Electric Version, is a block of non-stop "Feel-Good Spring Hits." The Vancouver sextet cultivates a strain of the perennial genus known as power-pop, and its roots can be traced back through New Wave to the early '70s, when mops blossomed into feathered bangs and the British Invasion gave way to bubblegum glam. The Pornos' "Chump Change" is a prime specimen: Lodged deliciously between the Raspberries and Sweet, the song mixes glittery riffs with globs of gooey melody. But Electric Version's title track is the real clincher. A Zombies-via-Shins masterpiece full of giddy keys and helium voices, it's as buoyant and staticky as a balloon stuck to a fuzzy sweater. Head songwriters Carl Newman and Dan Bejar swap lead vocals throughout the album, and chanteuse Neko Case prunes her alt-country twang as she weaves tendril-like harmonies around the two. Bejar has started phasing himself out of the band since its lauded 2001 debut, Mass Romantic, in order to focus on his main project, Destroyer, but his raw and surreal three-song contribution to Electric Version vividly offsets Newman's slick arrangements and strict traditionalism. Newman also heads up the dumbly overlooked mush-pop group Zumpano, who will probably be ignored even more now in favor of the New Pornographers' buzzier, punchier, more bracing sound. With a scant few weeks of springtime left, this show might be your last chance to get shivers and goosebumps before the sun stops setting and all the ice cream melts. The New Pornographers appear with Organ and Otion on Tuesday, June 3, at the Gothic Theatre. -- Jason Heller
 
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