Certain Songs #1322: The New Pornographers – “Letter From an Occupant”

Album: Mass Romantic
Year: 2000

It always cracked me up when The New Pornographers were referred to as a “Canadian Indie Rock Supergroup,” as if that phrase wasn’t a complete oxymoron. It might have been less funny when Mass Romantic came out in 2000, but with the exception of Neko Case, it’s not like any of these people have carved out a huge career outside of the context of The New Pornographers, which might be part of the reason that they’re still putting out albums every few years.

In any event, Mass Romantic was incredibly well-received by critics when it came out, as the pop-music stew that head pornos Carl Newman & Dan Bejar came up with was truly unique, chalk full of musical asides, layered vocals, shifting tempos and hook after hook after hook.

And nowhere was this more evident was “Letter From an Occupant,” the Neko Case-written song that sounded a zillion miles away from the alt-country she was making on her solo records. A glorious cacophony of buzzing keyboards, crunchy guitars and shifting drumbeats, “Letter From an Occupant” comes together ever single time Case belts out the chorus:

For the love of a god, you say
Not a letter from an occupant
For the love of a god, you say
Not a letter from an occupant

And when they follow that chorus with a joyous “Whoooh-ooooh-oooh-ooh,” “Letter From An Occupant” skyrockets towards that realm where only the greatest pop music lives. But of course, by 2000, it was way too late for an indie-pop song this busy to ever become, you know, popular.

Or perhaps it never was — what “Letter From an Occupant” reminds me the most of is pre-pastoral XTC — somewhere in the middle of Drums and Wires or Black Sea, a song that gets weirder and catchier as it progresses, until near the end, it actually explodes — the guitar phasing and fuzzing, the drums rolling over themselves — and Case sings about that explosion.

The song
The song
The song has shaken me

The song
The song
The song has shaken me

The song
The song
The song has shaken me

And just when you think they’ll never recover, they swoop back into one last chorus, and it is complete and utter heaven.

“Letter From An Occupant”

“Letter From An Occupant” official video

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