The New Pornographers: In the Morse Code of Brake Lights (Collected Work/Concord) - Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The New Pornographers

In the Morse Code of Brake Lights

Collected Work/Concord

Sep 27, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Some bands work steadily, churning out records; others leave long gaps, creating a buzz when new music eventually arrives. It’s a testament to the high quality of The New Pornographers that each release feels like the latter despite a bulging back catalogue.

In the Morse Code of Brake Lights takes the total from the Canadian indie power pop practitioners to eight full-lengths since 2000. No slacking here and no long gestation period either. They’re turning into the Coen Brothers of the indie scene. Regular output, consistent quality, and a recognizable sound that can change without changing.

Take the shifting line-up. This is the second release in a row not to feature Dan Bejar. The loss of his superlative abilities could sink many bands, but when you already have the likes of Neko Case and A.C. Newman leading a long list of talent, it hasn’t seemed to matter.

Better than taking the line-up, listen to the music. Infectious melodies, intriguing lyrics, and multiple vocalists remain the order of the day, underpinning a sound familiar and subtly different, mellower at times, more melancholic and expansive at others.

It’s in the margins of every track but comes to the forefront early with the ridiculously cool bass line opening “Falling Down the Stairs of Your Smile” and continues in the gentle, piano driven “You Won’t Need Those Where You’re Going,” the spine tingling “Colossus of Rhodes,” and the striking strings on “Dreamlike and on the Rush” that turn into a delirious, swirling triumph.

The energy is different now, less explosive, more measured and mature. They’ve never been a freewheeling band, working within precise confines, guitars sharp, rhythms propulsive. Now the music breathes a little more, enough to ensure trips to the well don’t become boring.

Evolution not revolution is the order of the day. The sheer, exhilarating high of early albums is gone, as is the laser focus pushing through to the end of songs. There are more sideways glances, more pauses. They can sprint when they need to, but not forever. This release proves that they don’t have to anymore. (

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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