The Brill Building is one of those places so eulogized it's hard to remember it was real. A stretch of Manhattan sidewalk that in the 1960s saw duos like Carole King and Gerry Goffin, alongside solo stars like Paul Simon and Neil Diamond, all crammed into cubicles and cranking out some of pop's greatest hits. It was a factory built on the bottom line, but the product was unimpeachable.
It's not hard to imagine the likes of the New Pornographers, the acclaimed Canadian indie rock collective, cheek by jowl with this crowd. De facto frontman A.C. Newman, the mercurial Dan Bejar, the fiery Neko Case -- all individually accomplished songwriters, but since their debut ( 2000's "Mass Romantic"), they have jointly spun off four albums of sumptuous pop that steadily matured along with its creators, and reeled in talented cohorts like Kathryn Calder along the way.
With the arrival of "Brill Bruisers," the old guard is made new again. Rippling with a level of gloss and verve that shades their recent efforts (especially 2007s heady "Challengers") as subdued, "Bruisers" is an iridescent animal that revels in the obviousness of great pop. "It's war on the East Coast/It's war out West/ Oh, I don't care/I don't care" reads the chorus of Bejar's brilliant "War on the East Coast," a simple string of language rendered unforgettable. The clever turns of phrase and knife-sharp harmonies persist on "Backstairs" and "Wide Eyes," but the wordy exuberance of yore is scrubbed and sharpened here, often channeled through quasi-futuristic, arpeggiated electronics that wouldn't sound out of place on a vintage Styx record.
Where the rocketry of "Mass Romantic" lifted off in a haze of manic energy, "Bruisers" is the band in sleek flight, seeking out their next adventure with a smile.