The New Pornographers are an Indie Rock and/or Power Pop (depending on who you ask) Supergroup with origins in Vancouver, BC. Formed in the late Nineties, they released their first album, Mass Romantic, in 2000.
Being as they are a supergroup, all of the members had significant careers before the band started, and most still do. However, the band really launched them up into the heights of indie fame.
- Dan Bejar (of Destroyer, Swan Lake, and Hello, Blue Roses)- Vocals, keyboards, multi-instrumentals
- A. C. Newman (solo, and also Zumpano and Superconductor) - Vocals, guitar, more or less everything else
- John Collins (of The Evaporators) - Bass, guitar, more or less everything else
- Kathryn Calder (solo, and also Immaculate Machine) - Vocals, piano, other keyboards
- Neko Case (solo, and also Maow, Corn Sisters and Cub) - Vocals
- Kurt Dahle (of Limblifter and Age of Electric) - Drums, assorted percussion
- Todd Fancey (solo, and also Limblifter) - Guitar, mandolin, banjo
- Blaine Thurier (former filmmaker) - Some really freakin' weird instruments. And a sampler.
Most songs are written by Newman (and most of those have him on lead vocals), with Bejar (who almost always sings his own songs) making a few contributions on most albums, and Collins and Case joining in sporadically.
- Mass Romantic (2000)
- Electric Version (2003)
- Twin Cinema (2005)
- Challengers (2007)
- Together (2010)
- Brill Bruisers (2014)
- Whiteout Conditions (2017)
- In The Morse Code of Brake Lights (2019)
Tropes associated with this band include:
- Absentee Actor: Whiteout Conditions is their first album without Dan Bejar - Officially, he didn't leave the group, he just sat this one out to work on new Destroyer material. Bejar was once again absent from 2019's In The Morse Code of Brake Lights, and his status within the band remains ambiguous.
- Aliens Steal Cable: Seemingly referenced in "The Body Says No", which beginsPeople of Earth, we have heard your station
Sold your song to the United Nations
All on a debt to the heads of state, yeah
What would you do in the situation?
- As usual, the rest of the song has nothing to do with any of that.
- Ballad of X: Electric Version's "Ballad of a Comeback Kid."
- Broken Record: The last half of "Testament to Youth in Verse" is the line "The bells ring 'No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no'" repeated eight times.
- Credits Gag: Mass Romantic credits Camp Northstar Kids' Chorus with backing vocals on "Breakin' The Law": In reality, the band layered their own vocals several times in order to sound like a large group of singers, then decided to include a Meatballs Shout-Out in the liner notes because they thought the end result made them sound like children. To A.C. Newman's amusement, a Rolling Stone writer missed the reference and mentioned that the album included an appearance by a children's camp choir in their review.
- Cover Version: "Think About Me" by Fleetwood Mac, "Don't Bring Me Down" by Electric Light Orchestra, and "Your Daddy Don't Know" by Toronto
- Descent into Addiction: "The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism" describes, well, a slow descent into alcoholism.
- Double Subversion: The song "Execution Day" features this lyric:On this day which began as execution day
And sure enough became execution day
- Droste Image: They used TV monitors to create this effect in the video for "Letter From an Occupant."
- Everything's Better with Samurai: The video for "Your Hands (Together)".
- Fading into the Next Song: On Brill Bruisers, "War on the East Coast" fades into "Backstairs".
- In the Style of...: "My Rights Versus Yours" is done in the style of mid-late sixties The Beach Boys. The band also held a YouTube contest promoting Challengers challenging fans to cover their own songs in the really smooth style of Michael McDonald.
- Intentionally Awkward Title: Their name, which is hardly indicative of their oeuvre. For that matter, the song "Entering White Cecilia" doesn't appear to have anything to do with sex other than its titular line (although they have claimed that it does).
- Leave the Camera Running: The music video for "Crash Years" features a static aerial view of a portion of a brick street, as people walk by holding umbrellas, riding on bicycles and other miscellaneous stuff happens below the camera.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Whiteout Conditions" is a catchy, synth-filled, 80s inspired song with lyrics about A.C. Newman experiencing a major depressive episode.
- Lyrical Shoehorn: A.C. Newman takes this trope and just runs with it. He's admitted that a lot of his lyrics don't really mean anything, that he just uses whatever sounds best in the song, or will use certain words because their vowels and consonants go well with a melody.
- Dan Bejar sometimes does this with his songs, but more often his lyrics are very much representative of his work as Destroyer. In which case, it's a very weird world he lives in. Enough to create a drinking game out of it.
- Mama Bear: At a show in Boston, someone tossed a CD at the stage, striking A. C. Newman's guitar. Newman was, at best, confused. NEKO CASE WAS PISSED.
- New Sound Album: Brill Bruisers has a much more noticeable reliance on synthesizers and a denser sound in general. This is even more pronounced on Whiteout Conditions.
- Also, Challengers was composed almost entirely of ballads, but this didn't carry over into their subsequent material.
- People Puppets: Done hilariously in the "Use It" video.
- Precision F-Strike: Dan Bejar blurts one out in "Chump Change".
- If you listen closely to their version of "Spidyr", you'll catch a whispered one from Neko Case, after she falls into a Four More Measures trap while singing the background vocal. Apparently they decided to just go with that take despite her screw-up.
- Real Trailer, Fake Movie: The video for "Moves" is a trailer for a non-existent Biopic of the band, with the members played by actors who look nothing like them, and an improbable plot full of Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll.
- Rearrange the Song: "Spidyr", originally by one of Dan Bejar's other bands, Swan Lake.
- Similarly, "Hey, Snow White" was originally a Destroyer song, which New Pornographers recorded for the benefit compilation Dark Was The Night. The New Pornographers' version is about half as long due to cutting down on the jamming, and has A.C. Newman on lead vocals - Dan Bejar might not have even been present for the recording.
- There's a common misconception that their name is an ironic reference to evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who once called rock and roll "the new pornography"; A.C Newman claims he'd never heard the quote before he started the band, and was instead inspired by The Pornographers, a Japanese Black Comedy film from 1966.
- Dan Bejar shouts out Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore, of all things, in "If You Can't See My Mirrors." In true Bejar fashion, none of the other lyrics have anything to do with that.
- In 2017, children's music artist Raffi objected to their name in a tweet, which resulted in a slew of (mostly good-natured) trolling tweets from A.C. Newman in response, before Raffi eventually apologized.
- Singer Namedrop: Sort of. Dan Bejar name-drops his bandmates Carl (Newman) and John (Collins) in the first verse of "Myriad Harbour."
- Stop and Go: The opening riff and verses of "Your Hands (Together)" are an excellent example, switching back and forth between a loud guitar/drum riff and near-silence.
- Subverted Kids Show: The video for "Mutiny, I Promise You" plays out like one of these, with a strange balance of cutesy live-action kids show characters and comical violence.
- Supergroup: As previously noted. Though they've stated that they don't really like the term, since the group is far more well known than any of its members' other work.
- Surreal Music Video: The one for "Myriad Harbour" follows an animated Dan Bejar with a giant head of hair that grows out of control, eventually growing other heads that all start singing in unison. Also counts as Deranged Animation.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Neko Case remains a member of the band as female lead. However, her other commitments (being an alt-country heroine, or a whacked-out pop princess) does mean she is not always available to tour with the band. Part of the reason Kathryn Calder was hired was to serve as female lead on tour, so that they could tour independently of Neko's schedule. Recently she's appeared as the lead singer on some recordings as well.
- Title Drop: The first three albums all opened with songs with the same title as the album (well, the song was called "The Electric Version," but let's not split hairs, shall we?), which also included the album title as a lyric in the song. Challengers also had a song entitled "Challengers," but it was the third track.
- "Together" is a weird case, since depending how you look at it, it can either have no title song or two title songs — "Your Hands (Together)" and the closing song "We End Up Together".
- "Brill Bruisers" goes back to putting the title track first, while "Whiteout Conditions" has it as the second track.
- Token Minority: Neko Case is a Token American in a Canadian band (born in Virginia, raised in Washington State).
- Uncommon Time: "Mutiny, I Promise You" does this twice: The verses and instrumental riffs add an extra half-measure every four, and the chorus is in 5/4.
- Vocal Tag Team: A.C. Newman, Dan Bejar, and Neko Case have rotated lead vocal duties since the beginning, with Kathryn Calder taking the lead a few times on their later albums. On several songs it's hard to tell who the "lead" is, as it will switch between the verse and chorus, or multiple people will be singing in unison.
- Word Salad Lyrics: Again, A.C. Newman's songs often end up like this. And then there's Dan Bejar...
- Your Cheating Heart: Notably averted by the title track from "Challengers", which is about two people realizing they're falling in love with each other despite both of them being in relationships with someone else. They agree to leave it be until those other relationships have run their course.