Continue as a Guest

Continue as a Guest

It’s essentially in The New Pornographers’ all-star DNA to write hooks that get stuck in your head for days, but occasionally, they move into moodier territory. And there’s good reason for main songwriter A.C. Newman to pivot, considering he wrote the bulk of Continue as a Guest while coping with the boredom of pandemic life. His melodies are just as instantly likable, but the overall pacing is slower and song structures are more expansive. Take “Cat and Mouse With the Light,” which moves in a hazy reverie of keyboard swells and elegant sax (courtesy of Zach Djanikian) as longtime member Neko Case sings one of the album’s most clever and tender moments: “You’re the last of my first mistakes left/And you can take that as a compliment.” The harmony-rich “Bottle Episodes” and “Really Really Light” (erstwhile Pornographer Destroyer’s Dan Bejar shares a co-writing credit on the latter, a repurposed outtake from 2014’s Brill Bruisers, shining even in his absence) bring them back to their upbeat selves, but there’s less bounce. Meanwhile, “Angelcover” is a full-on New Wave romp. Not since the lavish baroque-pop of 2010’s Together has the band made such big changes to their sound, which, given Newman’s concerns about overstaying his welcome with the project, hopefully doesn’t imply he’s made his last hurrah.

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