- by paul_guyet Rating:7 Release Date:2019-09-27 Label: Concord Records
After the desperate, brave breathlessness of Whiteout Conditions* in 2017 and Neko Case’s jaw-dropping Hell-On last year, my expectations for In The Morse Code Of Brake Lights were high. Maybe too high. I don’t blame them, I blame myself. But at least Dan Bejar is still AWOL, so there’s that.
The first third of Morse Code is some of the most New Pornographers-ass New Pornographers songs they’ve ever created. “The Surprise Knock”, with its opening constructed of thrumming bass accompanying Case and A.C. Newman trading “ah ah ah’s” should be next to “The New Pornographers” in whatever the sonic equivalent of a dictionary is. “You’ll Need A Backseat Driver” and “Falling Down The Stairs Of Your Smile”** are just more of why this band never gets old, but the star of this album is “Colossus of Rhodes”; this energetic, Case-helmed masterpiece is bold and driving, and the orchestra (which hugely enriches the album, making good tracks great and some of the less impressive tracks like “Dreamlike And On the Rush" something noteworthy) is just a bonus.
"Higher Beams" plods and the pervasive bloops get irritating (as do the Peruvian pan pipes? on “Opening Ceremony"). This stops the momentum and the album never really recovers, although the sad, subdued beauty of “You Won’t Need Those Where You’re Going" and "Need Some Giants” are exceptions.
Aside from that stellar opening and some solid, steadfast New Pornographers tracks, Morse Code feels a bit featureless overall, but only when compared to the rest of their discography. I’m not worried, there’s too much talent here to think something amazing isn’t right around the corner.
* The best New Pornographers album since Challengers
** Which is winning my award for “Best Song Title of 2019”, at least thus far