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First Listen: The New Pornographers, 'Together'

The New Pornographers' music is all about unlikely collisions. In its songs, discrete hooks slam into each other and compete for listeners' headspace. No fewer than three lead singers (A.C. Newman, Neko Case and Destroyer's Dan Bejar) take turns muscling each other out of the spotlight. And the band's five stellar albums even showcase the distinct visions of two songwriting geniuses in Newman and Bejar.

Perhaps the greatest feat of all is that any given New Pornographers song remains instantly recognizable, regardless of who wrote it or who sings it. As much as they vary in tone and origin, each track still exudes a familiar sort of fizzy urgency, complete with hairpin turns, weird bits of wordplay, hooks piled atop hooks and layers of vocal harmonies that make each song sound as if it's shellacked in sunshine.

The New Pornographers' fifth album, Together, strings together another string of unimpeachable pop gems, whether they're lush Neko Case- and Kathryn Calder-sung ballads ("My Shepherd"), weird Dan Bejar-sung seethers ("Silver Jenny Dollar") or grandiose A.C. Newman-sung blowouts ("The Moves"). Newman, Case and Bejar all get their due here, with the help of contributors both permanent (Calder, guitarist Todd Fancey, et al) and transient (Okkervil River's Will Sheff, St. Vincent's Annie Clark, Beirut's Zach Condon, the horns of The Dap-Kings).

These are the songs of summer -- it's no surprise that The New Pornographers' records tend to come out near the middle of the year -- with more than enough staying power to outlive the season. Together will stream here in its entirety until its release on May 4. Please leave your thoughts on the album in the comments section below.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)