The New Pornographers
Continue as a Guest
The New Pornographers are nine albums deep into a career that spans over 25 years. Members of the Canadian supergroup have come and gone since the late ’90s, but band leader Carl Newman is a mainstay for the group and a chief proponent of keeping things unfaded in or outside of the studio. On this ninth outing, Continue as Guest, Newman’s bandmates are Neko Case, Kathryn Calder, John Collins, Todd Fancey, and Joe Seiders, with saxophonist Zach Djanikian basically functioning as a seventh member.
Newman is a master of gathering exceptional singers and songwriters, and the album single “Angelcover” speaks to the power of the strong pop voice the project has honed in its collaborators. The chorus sets up the theme in a concise way: “Melody, melody / Ain’t got nothing on delivery.” Here, Newman addresses the process of songwriting, specifically the beauty of a terrible song produced well and sung like an angel. The whole album is a series of pop left turns—lead single and opening track “Really Really Light” is another example. It started its life as an unused chorus from former Pornos member Dan Bejar (a.k.a. Destroyer) for 2014’s Brill Bruisers. Newman interpolates his old bandmate’s song with his own verse, creating a sound recalling the band’s 2010s era as it ambles along.
A similar mixing of songwriting muses occurred for “Firework in the Falling Snow,” a fun electro-pop collaboration with Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis. She initially contributed lyrics and a strong melody that Newman rearranged and reassembled with her. The visual imagery of the lyrics and playful back and forth between Case and Newman set the track on a good path, and the horns and drums keep the colorful production moving at a good pace. “Cat and Mouse with the Light” and “Last and Beautiful” are two other solid examples of the continuing brilliance of Case and Newman’s ongoing collaboration.
Continue as a Guest builds off the adventurous power-pop sound floating around 2019’s In the Morse Code of Brake Lights. The new album zooms in on themes of isolation and emotional upheaval, but most tracks keep the tempos high and the melodies even higher. The New Pornographers continue to pump out just enough infectious pop and rock tracks for each new tour and album, and after their previous record charted quite well on Billboard, they don’t have anything to prove at this point. The only thing they seem to want to convey here is their love of the saxophone—they’re just having as much fun as possible.