Challengers

The New Pornographers. Matador.

The fourth outing from A.C. Newman's crew features more of the tinkly, anxious pop beloved by hip neurotics. Torn between the urge to create brainy art and a love for basic rock and roll, these itchy Canadians evoke early Roxy Music on the surging "All the Things That Go to Make Heaven and Earth" and take a pause from the tumult for "Unguided," a surprisingly old-fashioned ballad that manages to soothe and unsettle at once. As usual, alt-country diva Neko Case drops by to sing a couple of Newman's songs, projecting a calm self-assurance her pals lack. In "Go Places," she observes, "A heart should always go one step too far," underscoring the credo of this stirring—and exhausting—album.

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