On “Twin Cinema” (Matador), the New Pornographers write the kind of pop songs that will never be popular — jaunty, complex odes to love in which the hero (or heroine) is often confused, lonely and happy at the same time. The seven- and sometimes eight-piece version of the New Pornographers onstage (Dan Bejar makes drunken, Robert Pollardesque appearances on the songs he sings) comprises members of the rotating-band’s classic lineup, led by primary songwriter A.C. Newman. Yet they only hit hard when they were led by their second-in-command, confident singer Neko Case.
Case’s songs have more resonance live because of the way she delivers them, shimmering while playing tambourine, seemingly oblivious to her pinup status among the indie-rock boys cramming the front row. Most bands in the New Pornographers’ recently expanding genre, including the now-defunct Beulah and Sub Pop superheroes the Shins, are composed only of boys singing about girls; Case’s presence offers a different perspective.
She also provides opportunity for compelling harmonies, helped along by new member Kathyrn Calder and any of the other band mates who choose to sing along. The harmonies make songs like the goofy “Sing Me Spanish Techno” feel sweet and sincere, while the more winsome numbers gain some soul.
At 90 minutes, the Pornographers’ set sometimes felt repetitive; still, when their pop is stirring, it resonates with a full, loving heart.