Thursday, August 15th, 2019

The New Pornographers – Falling Down The Stairs Of Your Smile

We’re smiling!


Oliver Maier: It’s unlikely that the Pornos will ever grasp the supercharged magic of their first three albums again (for my money the strongest run of any rock band in the first half of the 2000s) and “Falling Down The Stairs Of Your Smile” trips on a couple of questionable choices, with some dire clapping sounds in the pre-chorus and a middle 8 too insubstantial to create a real climax. For the most part, however, it’s a delight; I love how “stairs of your smile” becomes “stairs of your love,” I love the chiming keyboard and restless basslines (which all move downwards, naturally), and most of all I love that damn chorus.

Alfred Soto: Why did Neko Case’s mates mix her down — revenge? Let’s hope not. As the band gleans what wisdom it can from tour buses and hotel lobbies, the range of A.C. Newman’s imagination constricts. Not that this development is noticeable behind the well-deployed handclaps, tambourine shakes, and background vocals. “It looked good on paper” goes one lyric — the New Pornographers have devoted a career to refuting this lyric.

Edward Okulicz: The mixing on this is a bit on the clumsy side — things that should stand out clear as a bell like the lead vocals on the chorus are almost drowned out by backing vocals — but all the elements here are really good! The bassline is killer, the melody’s strong, the lyrics and delivery are sharp and pithy, and despite feeling a bit overloaded, the song kicks along nicely. Now I know that if I want great, powerful choruses sung by Neko Case, then Case herself writes them as good as or better than AC Newman these days, so I can appreciate that the New Pornographers can do other things well too.

Vikram Joseph: The New Pornographers were exactly the sort of band I was a sucker for in the mid-late 2000s, and the sort of band I’ve fallen out of step with in the mid-late 2010s. Add to that the glib musical metaphor of the lounge-pop bassline (yes, yes, it’s descending, like stairs, we get it) and I was  ready to write this off with a pithy one-liner (“We have arrived too late to care about late-career mid-tempo power-pop,” or something). But then there’s the chorus – the loose, hazy chug of the guitars, the instant sugar-rush of Neko Case’s vocals – and suddenly it feels like it’s 2006 again. This isn’t vintage New Pornographers – it lacks the reckless energy that powers their best songs – but there’s mileage in those old tricks yet.

Tim de Reuse: The genius of the bassline caught me off-guard: it falls over itself measure by measure to build momentum for a chorus that’s just full of enough interlocking elements to not slow down. You have to focus on pulling yourself out of the groove to notice that the rest of it is unremarkably-competent mid-aughts indie rock — and I do genuinely mean that as a compliment!

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Of the (increasingly few) bands from the mid-2000s indie boom that still are making relevant music, The New Pornographers have aged the best. This is perhaps because they always were preternaturally aged– A.C. Newman and Neko Case, as well as the now departed Dan Bejar, never really seemed like they had the same youthful energy as their punkier peers. So a track like “Falling Down The Stairs Of Your Smile,” based around a very sophisti-pop bass loop and some tasteful handclaps, isn’t so much a maturation of their sound than a variation on a theme– over two decades, the band has occupied a broad territory of weirdo power pop, and by the time the chugging guitars of the chorus bring in a normality of the sound it’s hard to sense a shift at all. The only area where Newman might be slowing is the lyrics, which are too tied to the mouthful of a title. But even there, the performances (and a few of the little lyrical flourishes) are strong enough to right the ship. It’s nothing revelatory, but to be making material this good 8 albums and 20 years into a career is maybe a miracle in itself.

Reader average: [6.33] (6 votes)

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3 Responses to “The New Pornographers – Falling Down The Stairs Of Your Smile”

  1. this is the first new pornos song we’ve covered to ever get a score not starting with 6!! maybe these guys do have a career ahead of them

  2. The ability to continue to produce quality is mindblowing. (8)

  3. Oh God, didn’t get a chance to blurb this one but I just have to say, I keep hearing this on the local NPR station and I change the channel every time. I like other New Pornographers songs but this one is just dreadful. So plodding and repetitive. I actually can’t believe this is their lead single.

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