Some bands aim for a grand, widescreen sound when they go into the studio, but the New Pornographers refuse to be satisfied with anything short of 3-D IMAX, with their songs accompanied by thundering drums, massive cascades of keyboards, towering vocal choruses, and chugging, percussive melodies that power it all. It would be easy for the New Pornographers to sound absurdly ostentatious if it weren't for the fact there's a fiercely beating heart in the midst of their music, and at their best, the indie supergroup seems to be having a grand time constructing their walls of sound. 2014's Brill Bruisers is a suitably grandiose follow-up to 2010's Together, and the fact it took seven different recording studios to assemble tells you something about the album's sonic ambition, but A.C. Newman's tunes are graceful, clever, and catchy despite their size, like a blimp that easily floats with the breeze, and the vocals from Newman, Neko Case, Dan Bejar, and Kathryn Calder bring both drama and passion to this music. (Bejar's three songs seem a good bit more compact than Newman's, especially the lean and paranoid "Spyder," but even that finds room for a manic drum break and some wailing harmonica). As is this group's habit, Brill Bruisers is lyrically cryptic, but while there seems to be a dour edge to most of the verbiage, the music is usually upbeat when the melodic hooks take hold, and with Kelly Hogan contributing guest vocals on four tracks, this singing powerhouse sounds more impressive than ever. If you have a grand desire to take on the world and want a suitable indie rock soundtrack, Brill Bruisers will certainly do the trick, and if this isn't the best effort to date from the New Pornographers, it most certainly doesn't disappoint.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming