Release Date: Sep 27, 2019
Record label: Concord
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
A.C. Newman has never been known as a songwriter with a clear and easily defined message; as the idea man behind the New Pornographers, he enjoys creating grand-scale pop constructs with lyrics that are artfully oblique. But on 2019's In the Morse Code of Brake Lights, the man appears to have two particular themes on his mind: love and automobiles. From the opening track "You'll Need a Backseat Driver" to the finale "Leather on the Seat," cars keep popping up in the lyrics of these 11 songs, though motor vehicles serve as metaphors in these stories rather than merely serving as a cool ride in the manner of Chuck Berry or Bruce Springsteen.
Some bands work steadily, churning out records; others leave long gaps, creating a buzz when new music eventually arrives. It's a testament to the high quality of The New Pornographers that each release feels like the latter despite a bulging back catalogue. In the Morse Code of Brake Lights takes the total from the Canadian indie power pop practitioners to eight full-lengths since 2000.
Ever since Chuck Berry motorvated over the hill in "Maybellene," cars have been a shorthand for freedom in rock'n'roll. The New Pornographers flip this axiom on its head on their eighth album, In the Morse Code of Brake Lights, where all sense of liberation is undercut by a suspicion that whoever is behind the wheel may be headed toward danger. A sense of doom lurks at the heart of Brake Lights, providing connective tissue between its 11 barbed songs and darkening the album's sunniest moments.
As we march towards the end of another decade, The New Pornographers may not be on the tip of many tongues when discussions ensue about who have been the most consistent artists over the course of the 21st century. That's a shame, given that the A.C. Newman led group got their start at the dawn of the new century. And with the release of In The Morse Code of Brake Lights, they have put forth eight remarkably solid albums over the course of that time.