The song’s lyrics dig deeper than that description suggests, however. New Pornographers’ founder AC Newman notes, “High Ticket Attractions,” “was written before Trump won the election, although there was already a lot of anxiety of ‘Holy shit, things could go terribly wrong.'” Specifying, he notes, “There’s a lot of anxiety to lines like ‘The Mayans took their science and dumped it all in the drink and went silent,’ and the Magna Carta being underwater. All the water stuff is an obvious reference point for global warming: We came from the water; are we going back there?”
This dichotomy between the band’s upbeat power pop instrumentals and darker lyrics is not unique to “High Ticket Attractions.” The album’s title track opens with a playful drumbeat before the tempo jumps up and the guitar kicks in. But the chorus reveals a darker side to the song: “Only want to get to work / But every morning I’m too sick to drive / Suffering whiteout conditions / Forget the mission, just get out alive.” As Newman describes, “It’s basically a song about going through a depressive episode. It’s about the eternal battle, which feels like an epic battle, and just trying to get out of that place and into another place.”
Even with these heavier songs, Whiteout Conditions never feels too dark or pessimistic. The band’s ability to produce a catchy, joy-inducing melody is in full view on the album, and the record marks another standout for The New Pornographers thanks to the band’s buoyant energy, clever melodies, and a newfound cohesiveness in lyrical and musical themes.