Matador Records; August 2007
How does The New Pornographers’ latest album, Challengers, compare to their previous studio LP, Twin Cinema? Well, if both records were Frank Gehry buildings, Challengers would be the Walt Disney Concert Hall to Twin Cinema‘s Experience Music Project in Seattle. The New Pornographers have heretofore nailed a gratifying combination of structure and energya winsome balance of joie de vivre and self-discipline; but this time around, structure seems to gain the edge, with less exciting results. Though not exactly diminished, the Pornographers are certainly less exuberant, and more measured, which could be disappointing to those who prefer the band’s more fiery incarnation. While the Disney Hall is majestically streamlined for strange, austere beauty, and impeccable acoustics, the Music Project is more likely to make you smile.