By all rights, The New Pornographers shouldn't be called a supergroup. Not because they aren't super. Quite the contrary: A.C. Newman, Dan Bejar, and Neko Case are all amazing individual musicians. Yet, supergroup implies a project for the sake of a project, a one or two-off to suit the sole purpose of masturbating their solitary talents in an obligatory gathering. After ten years and four records, striving always for the highest level of continuity possible, it's high time they kicked that tired label. No, they're just a group, and on Challengers a damn good one.
I like to call them the Fleetwood Mac of Indie Rock. Using the first four songs of Challengers as a sample size, it's easy to see why - an equal blend of all four featured singers (the aforementioned three, plus Kathryn Calder). Unlike most bands with multiple singers, there's never any lack of connectivity between songs on a New Pornos record. One reason for that is the female singers, Calder and Case, can blend like sisters vocally for background parts. The other reason is the male singers, Bejar and Newman, have an uncannily similar lisping quality to their voices. Songs like the chugging "My Rights Versus Yours" and the urban choruses of "Myriad Harbor" are glued to an interlocking bond by the group's melding vocals.
Often called a "Power Pop" band, if there'll be a letdown for fans of New Pornographers' past work, it's that Challengers is more composed. Mellow isn't a bad thing with the fantastic lyrical depth present here. A.C. Newman, who contributes the majority of the songs has too much to say, if anything. The rest of the Pornos do a fantastic job making Newman's rambling more concise - especially Dan Bejar. His three writing credits include the refreshingly bright "Entering White Cecilia".
As if they haven't already, the one song on Challengers that legitimizes The New Pornographers as a classic entity is "All The Old Showstoppers". An amazing arrangement meets a choir of A.C. Newman's unending hooks and Case's tasteful accompaniment. It's almost a shame that I have to highlight only one track. Like Twin Cinema before it, Challengers shows a group in its prime, hopefully one that can continue crafting records of this caliber for a long time to come.