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Classic porn

Why is it that some pop music is called art and some is called something much less flattering? Why is it that the Beatles' "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" isn't trite, mindless, and deserving of ridicule, but New Kids on the Block's "Hangin' Tough" is?

The truth is, there's an impulse inside us that lets us know when something is real and when it's not. We all know peroxide blondes with choreographed dance moves are not; we feel it deep inside, next to where last night's post-Will & Grace snack is digesting. Pop is not the soundtrack of the apocalypse despite what most music snobs would have you believe. When real, it's the soundtrack of a future we should all want to live and the New Pornographers' latest, Twin Cinema, is a future that shines brighter than any other pop album released this year.

Ringleader A.C. Newman and his Canadian super-group are back with 14 tracks of epic power-pop carefully crafted to save your unworthy soul. If their anthemic choruses aren't enough to get you singing, then you're beyond saving. De-countrified diva Neko Case stands out as always, especially on "These Are the Fables." For fans of Electric Version, Twin Cinema's title track is an updated highlight from that era. It opens the new album with frenetic verve, while "Stacked Crooked," one of the disc's most subdued tracks (that doesn't mean a deficit of sticky-sweet chorales) concludes the disc with a warm kiss goodbye. The three songs by now-part-time member Dan Bejar are welcome intrusions that blend well with Newman's exuberance, notably "Jackie, Dressed in Cobras."

What it comes down to is this: pop isn't always bad, sometimes it's downright glorious, and sometimes it can be a mirror in which all your failures are reflected and juxtaposed against that which is being offered. The New Pornographers have their hands out. You willing?

- Cole Haddon

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