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New Pornographers' Pop 'Adventures' Continue

The New Pornographers' members have mastered the art of clever, lustrous power-pop.
The New Pornographers' members have mastered the art of clever, lustrous power-pop.

The New Pornographers' members have spent nearly a decade carving out a richly deserved reputation as virtually unparalleled masters of clever, lustrous power-pop. The ingredients remain unimpeachable, from A.C. Newman and Dan Bejar's gleefully obtuse lyrics to Neko Case's head-turning guest vocals and beyond. But what makes the best New Pornographers songs instant classics is the way they pack several remarkable hooks — each strong enough to sustain a pop hit's chorus — into a single track.

"Adventures in Solitude" closes the band's fine new Challengers without conserving hooks: Opening with a few uncharacteristically spare verses and memorable interludes — "We thought we lost you / Welcome back" — the song soon blooms into a series of rich, warm-blooded choruses, as Case rushes the spotlight and the strings sweep in. The juxtaposition between spare and lush only enhances the heartwarming thrill of the latter's arrival, but "Adventures in Solitude" sounds like a gem no matter which hook it rides.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)