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New Pornographers

Even if you claim to disdain sweet melodies and clever arrangements, Vancouver's New Pornographers will make you jump out of your chair and do a little dance. Or at least enthusiastically bop your head with a good-sized smile on your face. Or if you're feeling grumpy, just tap your foot along. If they don't make you move around at least a little bit, you're obviously hopelessly maladjusted. The band's approach offers something for everone: their songs are wonderfully melodic but never cloying, their arrangements are clever and catchy but not light, and their lyrics are playful and intelligent but not the least bit precious. This is 21st century power pop done right.

It always helps to have lots of talent in one place. Frontman Carl Newman was one of the key characters in Vancouver's mid '90s indie pop explosion with his previous band Zumpano, while vocalist Dan Bejar is the primary force behind the eclectic folk-pop ramblings of Destroyer and Neko Case (along with her Boyfriends) has received accolades for her haunted, baroque alt-country (and is of course an offical Playboy-certified indie rock babe). The band also features the capable talents of guitarist Todd Fancey, keyboardist Blaine Thurier, and drummer Kurt Dahle.

The band technically formed in 1996 but thanks to its members' various commitments, didn't get down to the business of recording an album until 2000, when they released the quirky, eclectic, and utterly luminous Mass Romantic on Vancouver's Mint Records (it's since been reissued by Matador). The band's profile got bumped up again in 2001 when The Kinks' Ray Davies joined them onstage at South by Southwest for a madcap rendition of "Starstruck," which he'd never before performed live. The New Pornographers toured regularly through the next two years, amassing a new batch of golden tunes which they took into the studio in 2003 and turned into Electric Version. A bit more polished but every bit as idiosyncratic as their debut, Electric Version offers no shortage of effervescance or energy, making for ideal summer listening.