Photo by Chris BuckTHE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS
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Widely touted as a Canadian supergroup—not a contradiction in terms—the Pornographers, with prime songwriter Carl Newman, future genius Dan Bejar and rising producer John Collins, have enough compositional gusto to bury both the Zombies and David Bowie beneath their heaps of layered harmonies and sophisticated power-pop melodies. Not as immediately addicting as its predecessor, 2000's Mass Romantic, Electric Version nonetheless showcases the band's penchant for omnipresent keyboards and crisp vocals, successfully avoiding the sophomoric shortcomings that often plague other retro-kitsch bands. Fans of the first album will especially enjoy the repeat- button-worthy "All for Swinging You Around," with Neko Case's sugar-high vocals pushed steadily along by a twist-inducing beat before breaking down into Newman's slower, mesmerizing bridge. Still, the best tracks on the album are when the band forays into a more developed sound, such as the keyboard-light instant sing-along "From Blown Speakers," as well as the strikingly moving reverie "July Jones," a noticeably heavier departure from the goofiness of their previous songs. Ultimately, Electric Version heralds the band's growth from a loose collective of part-time members into a solidly pop-minded songwriting powerhouse, allowing for their sound to mature along the way.