As we continue our week of indie music, we move from the boundaries of the States to international indie bands. I’d be doing the genre a great disservice if I didn’t mention the Canadian indie group The New Pornographers, who have often been called a ‘supergroup’, as each of their members have their own musical side projects.
At the center of The New Pornographers sit three lyrical giants. The indie-country redhead Neko Case, Carl Newman (who goes by A.C. Newman in his solo work), and the mad-poet Dan Bejar, of Destroyer. At different points in my life I’ve turned to each of their solo work, but in my opinion nothing beats the songs they make when they all come together.
The song I’ve chosen comes from The New Pornographers’ sixth studio album, “Brill Bruisers”, which they released in 2014. “Champions of Red Wine” is the second track on the album.
Champions of Red Wine
Like many of the songs from the “Brill Bruiser” album, “Champions of Red Wine” was developed through a series of discoveries and improvisations. In an interview with NPR, Carl Newman addresses how this process shaped the vocals in this track.
“‘When she sang that vocal, I had a lead vocal and she was singing along with me,’ he said. “But then a couple weeks after Neko was gone, we just pulled me out of it and sat there and went, ‘This is so much better.'”
After listening to “Champions of Red Wine”, it’s indeed hard to picture Newman’s voice leading. The emotional and delicate approach that Case brings to the song breathes life through even the cheapest pair of headphones. Her personal touch, and the song’s poignant, but somewhat cryptic lyrics, are two of the reasons this song succeeds in sticking in the head long after the last notes fade.
While the original intent of the meaning behind “Champions of Red Wine” may remain a mystery, we’re still free to speculate here. The lyrics seem to focus on a relationship, one that has a history. One interpretation is that it explores the process of reconnecting with an old flame. In the first verse, you can see this clearly.
“We are champions of red wine
We’re poured all over
It’s what we’re known for
The fine art of crossed lines
Crossed for old times
Like starting over”
“Champions of red wine” suggests a history of drinking together, while “crossed for old times” hints at a storied past. The chorus repeats one line, “Steps I take back to you”, which further cements this interpretation.
The second chorus makes a direct reference to love songs, and how they play a role in describing this relationship. “I am not your love song / Love song gone wrong / I’m coming over”. These lines recognize a broken heart, as well as a redemption for something new in the future.
“Champions of Red Wine” is one of my personal favorite songs on “Brill Bruisers”, an album that came out during the height of my New Pornographers phase. A phase which, I might add, never ended. I was lucky enough to see them play in Chicago while they were on tour for “Brill Bruisers”, and they did not disappoint.
And so there, we’ve covered the most popular Canadian indie rock group there is. And if the stereotype of indie music is that its extremely niche, I don’t think we could have picked a better band.
Tomorrow, we’ll wrap up our week of indie rock with one more song. Since we’ve now covered American and Canadian indie music, I think that we may turn our attention across the sea to the UK, and see what they have to offer.