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The New Pornographers: Continue As A Guest [Album Review]

The New Pornographers Continue As A Guest

To begin, I have an embarrassing admission to make: For the most part, I have been flat out ignoring The New Pornographers since their 2007 release Challengers. In this album review, I’m setting out to see what sets their new album, Continue as a Guest apart. What about it caught my attention compared to everything else they’ve done in the past 15 years? Does this album have staying power? Is it any good?

Let’s find out.

About The New Pornographers

The Canadian supergroup features none other than Neko Case, A.C. Newman, Dan Bejar of Destroyer, and a handful of others who don’t have quite the indie cred and name recognition as those three. The band came onto my radar with their sophomore release, 2003’s Electric Version, which I recently covered in my top 20 albums turning 20 in 2023. How’s that for a mouthful? 

That release just about cracked the top 10.

Then came 2007’s Challengers, which blew me away. And yeah, I know Twin Cinema was in there as well. 

Brill Bruisers made its way into my collection only because I stumbled upon a super cheap copy used and it was on cool colored vinyl. I think I’ve listened to it… once. The only reason I remember the name of that one is because Gene Hackman’s character in Enemy of the State went by the name Brill.

I can’t tell you what other albums they’ve released since 2007. They just seemed to slip by. A song, here or there, left me disinterested and a bit disappointed. 

But then they started teasing their 9th LP, Continue as a Guest. And something seemed a bit different. I picked up a copy for myself.

Let’s dig in and find out why. Read on below, or check out my YouTube Video above.

Continue As A Guest Album Review

I’ve thrown this album on a number of times already, both on vinyl and digitally, and I’m continually surprised at just how good it is. 

And that’s kinda funny, because circling back to those earlier releases, I kept coming back to The New Pornographers due to the songs that featured a strong Dan Bejar presence. His raspy vocals — you know, the ones that draw you to Destroyer — continue to keep me hooked.

But on Continue As A Guest, they’re notably absent. Aside from being credited on the opening track “Really Really Light,” his presence is a gaping hole on the LP. 

I’ll dive into Bejar’s absence in a little bit…

The A Side

“Really Really Light” was an early single the band dropped to streaming platforms, and even with Bejar’s presence — I feel like I can pinpoint him on the song — there’s a catchiness to the track that I haven’t heard from the band in a while. It’s still fully invested in power pop sensibilities too, something they’ve been dabbling with for decades now.

“Pontius Pilate’s Home Movies” opens with a saxophone — and yeah, I love me some sax! It doesn’t stick around, though. The vocal melody, the mysterious instrumentation, the driving beats. I’m digging this. Oddly, though, it never seems to climax. Though the song feels like it wants too, it just edges you along never quite allowing that burst of release. “Last and Beautiful” almost follows suit, but kind of in the opposite way. There are a lot of little bursts.

We get to the end of the A-side with the title track, “Continue As A Guest.” It’s got this cool driving rhythm and a great vocal hook. The saxophone is prominent with a great lick. And, as a bonus, they throw in what might be the best chorus on the album.

The B Side

Kicking off the B-side is “Bottle Episodes.” This song, like so many on the album, bring a smile to my face. The music makes me feel happy. It’s not necessarily happy music, but it still sparks that joy. 

“Angelcover” is another the band teased early on. There’s a darkness to many of the songs on the album, which isn’t all too far from much of what you get with The New Pornographers to begin with. They tend to lean into that sound a bit.

Closer “Wish Automatic Suite” is a sleeper — at first you’ll think it’s a bit of a throwaway, but there’s a great melodic element to it that will sneak into your head. And I think that is what I’ve been missing from The New Pornographers. The power pop trait of a catchy, memorable hook. 

The New Pornographers Continue As A Guest Blue in Green Wax

What Makes Continue As A Guest So Great?

Looking back on the track list, I’m honestly finding it damn near impossible to point to a song that I truly dislike. Sure, there are some I don’t like as much as others, but dislike? No. And there are quite a few that I don’t just like; I love.

So where on past album’s Bejar’s presence seemed to elevate the albums, his absence Continue as a Guest does not detract. In fact, it feels like a freshness has been injected into The New Pornographers — something we really haven’t heard since Challengers

This freshness is where the intrigue I mentioned early on resides. 

I’m left wondering, Is it the absence of Bejar that injected a renewed energy into the New Pornographers? 

Or is it the move from Matador Records to Merge that freed the band up to create sounds that sneak their way into your head more than those from the last few albums? 

Could it be the isolation and turmoil the world experienced around the pandemic that led them to create more powerful tracks? 

Maybe it’s none of those things, or maybe it’s a blend of all them. I’m just glad they’re back on my radar.

And, my sneaking suspicion is that with Continue as a Guest, they’ll stay back.

The New Pornographers Continue As A Guest Vinyl

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