The New Pornographers: The Last Picture Show

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Having staged another classic-pop blockbuster with Twin Cinema, the New Pornographers are ready for their close-up. By Jonathan Valania

They are a curious breed, our so-called gentle neighbors to the north. On first glance, they look and talk just like us, barring the occasional “eh?” that punctuates most declarative sentences. But if you look closely, you can tell they aren’t like you and me.

First of all, they are a little too friendly and good-humored, possibly due to their high-octane beer and skunky British Columbia kind bud. They are witty and well-spoken, thanks to an educational system that boasts a 97 percent literacy rate. Due to almost half a century of socialized medicine, they are unnaturally healthy, with a life expectancy of 80.1 years. Lastly, they simply don’t do sarcasm. Not well, anyway. They have no real need for it. They are peace-lovin’, good-time-likin’ people. They might not get your back if you wanted to start a bar fight in, say, Baghdad, but they will help you pound that case of Molson afterward.

Canadians are a mild and temperate people who are as discreet as they are polite, able to keep a lot of secrets under their hats, or “toques.” (Which, in case you never heard of Bob and Doug McKenzie, is pronounced “tewks.” You know, those pom-pom-topped ski caps they pull down over their Geddy Lee hair after Labor Day.) Secrets that you, my fellow Americans, are not supposed to know. But I did your homework for you. I combed through their well-funded libraries, I drank with the locals, I slept with the mooses, I even bribed a few Mounties. I did all of this so that you could learn: The Top 10 Things Americans Are Not Supposed To Know About Canada.

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Ponys: Retro Active

ponys325The Ponys have heard it all: The Velvet Underground. Television. The New York Dolls. The Ramones. Post-punk. Revivalism. Garage rock. But even with all the press-approved reference points and clunky modifiers thrust upon them, these four Chicagoans don’t feel bogged down. After all, it could be worse.

“I actually catch myself doing it, too,” says singer/guitarist Jered Gummere. “Saying, ‘Listen to this. It’s my new favorite band. They sound like this!’ So I can’t really bash it. For the most part, we’ve gotten good comparisons. I mean, if we’re getting compared to Cake or something, then I’d be upset.”

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Nada Surf: 3 Feet High And Rising

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With time, effort and some cathartic pop songs, Nada Surf demonstrates how to recover from emotional distress and brief stardom. By Andrew Parks

Life hasn’t always been awful for Nada Surf singer/guitarist Matthew Caws. There was the summer of ’96, when the band performed at the MTV Beach House in Malibu and a cameraman asked tanned, female onlookers to remove their bikini tops. Backing Joey Ramone at an Iggy Pop tribute in 1997 wasn’t so bad, either, especially when Joey returned the favor at a Nada Surf show in Coney Island a couple weeks later by leading the band through eight Ramones songs. Then there was the time an amateur football team in Las Vegas asked Nada Surf to perform its ’90s time-capsule single “Popular” with the modified bridge, “You’ll be sorry when we crush your bones.”

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Spinto Band: Coming Up

spinto_band480The Spinto Band was born out of Sin City. Literally. Of the six Spintos, ages 18 to 23, only singer/guitarist Nick Krill doesn’t have a father, stepfather or uncle who is or was part of Delaware honky-tonk institution the Sin City Band. The Spintos began in junior high with weekend sleepovers in a basement full of the Sin City Band’s discarded four-tracks and other outdated (but not yet “vintage”) gear.

“I think we’re the reverse of a lot of other young bands,” says Krill. “Every other band we knew back then would play in their garage and do the live thing. They’d do a bunch of concerts, then go, ‘Oh man, we’ve gotta record now?’ But we just had this crap in the basement and all we’d do was record, so we had 20 90-minute tapes full of junk before we played our first show. When we had to play live, we were like, ‘What the heck? What do we do?’”

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Daniel Lanois: The Mercy Seat

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In his producer’s chair, Daniel Lanois serves as rainmaker for Bob Dylan and U2. But he’s just as visionary when wandering the ambient-desert landscape of his latest album. By Scott Wilson

Playing six degrees of Daniel Lanois will get you from Youssou N’Dour to Martha And The Muffins in one move. The 54-year-old Canadian-born producer, guitarist, songwriter and singer has been sideman and sherpa to hall-of-famers and also-rans, tuning up for Raffi as a fledgling studio owner in the mid-’70s and picking up Grammys less than a decade later. The onetime Brian Eno acolyte has, like his mentor, seen his name become an adjective. The Lanois sound. The thrum of overdue multiplatinum sales for Peter Gabriel; the rustle of Bob Dylan unfurling his scroll again; the rattle, hum and pop of the great arena-era U2 albums that aren’t Rattle And Hum or Pop. The Lanois sound. Storyville funeral procession, hissing swamp gas, churning overdubs, mirror-smooth high-hats and broken-bone percussion. The Lanois sound.

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