Some albums demand time to make their impact felt, revealing nuances over the course of multiple exposures. Other albums grab you by the hair the first time out. The New Pornographers' Mass Romantic actually fits into both categories; it's a collection of short, sharp pop songs intricately arranged not out of fussiness, but to ensure maximum impact. A supergroup of sorts, The New Pornographers began several years ago as a side project for members of several Vancouver-area bands, and evolved into a showcase for the songwriting talents of Zumpano's Carl Newman and Destroyer's Dan Bejar. Any indelible melodies they might have held back from their other projects come pouring out here. Critically speaking, power-pop has an easy ride. It's commercially out of fashion, it hearkens back to rock's past greatness, and, done right, it provides nothing but pleasure. But there's a difference between doing it right and doing it to the point of sublimity, and The New Pornographers makes that difference clear. More than the sum of its influences—even if it occasionally feels like a stack of Cars, Cheap Trick, and early XTC albums melted together—Mass Romantic throttles from strength to strength. Opening with the bracing title track, it proceeds through the seemingly effortless keyboard-and-guitar marriage of "To Wild Homes" to "Breakin' The Law," whose use of a children's choir may be the most pleasingly perverse pop moment since Lindsay Buckingham recruited the USC marching band for "Tusk." Fresh off her revelatory country album Furnace Room Lullaby, Neko Case drops by for several tracks to prove herself equally adept at pop. Here's hoping she doesn't feel the need to choose between styles, as it would be a shame to lose a great country voice, even if her presence brightens every track on which she appears. Everyone else should quit their day jobs. A band this good, even if it appeared by accident, deserves the chance to make album after album, though this one will more than suffice for now.
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