What's immediately striking about Challengers is the unabashed mellowness of it all. Gone are the wired-up anthems that are the New Pornographers' hallmark, replaced here by quiet introspection. It's the slower and softer sound of a more mature New Pornographers who have finally come to accept that they're no longer teenagers and neither are their audience, to the point that they're totally comfortable calling a tune Adventures In Solitude.
They're also making the most of their uniquely symbiotic intra-band relationships, which have developed over the past decade of intermittent collaborations. Because Carl Newman knows he has as much difficulty delivering a straight-up love song as Neko Case has composing one, he's free to be more personally revealing about his own affairs of the heart, trusting in Case's ability to vocally plumb whatever emotional depth he's prepared to explore and then some. That's why Newman's song Go Places represents a real achievement, even if Dan Bejar's sweet NY reverie Myriad Harbour gets more attention because it's catchier.