For all the accolades The New Pornographers have received for their supergroup cast, the Northwestern indie champions never made an album designed for a complete sit-down listen. Their encyclopedic grasp on the past three decades of power-pop resulted in some of the best singles of the aughts, but it also somewhat muddled their collective vision on Mass Romantic and Electric Version, and the songwriting by Destroyer's Dan Bejar and Zumpano's Carl Newman, though mostly better than their respective bands, sounded split rather than cohesive. Titling their third album Twin Cinema, then, gets to the heart of why The New Pornographers are no longer just a great band but one of the best in the world. Here, Bejar and Newman are like the "twin projectors" sung about in the title track, projecting separate images that bleed together in a singular feature, and this Cinema has no low points--it's genius from start to finish and is an instant top ten candidate for 2005. Whether slowing down for piano-filled Stones-lover "The Bones of an Idol," siphoning the blood of Big Star through the falsetto-twee of "Jackie, Dressed in Cobras" or turning the riff from X's "Los Angeles" into the synth-driven head-bobber "Three or Four," the Pornographers branch out more than ever, yet Cinema presents a newfound sense of unity; for the most part, you really can't pick out who wrote which song anymore. This growth is most evident in "The Bleeding Heart Show," whose softer, semi-Elton John opening gradually builds with harpsichord, accordion and tons of acoustic guitars, only to explode with the cry, cry, cries of Pornographers' co-lead singer Neko Case in the greatest "Kum Ba Yah"-style chorus ever. "We have arrived too late to play the bleeding heart show," Case repeats, but at least Bejar and Newman have finally arrived at the same time.
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