‘Shut Down The Streets’ is a very grown-up album. Shaving away at the effervescent stubble of power-pop, Newman reveals a sound that is of an assured, Harry Nilsson-style seventies rock star - self-reflective and prone to quiet moments as much as he is able to pen a proper pop melody. Steel guitar slides across the calm surface of ‘You Could Get Lost Out Here’; acoustic guitars provide the driving rhythm for the majority of the playing time; fellow New Pornographer Neko Case provides some sweet backing vocals; Hammond-style organs warm the edges.
‘My most personal songs ever somehow made the most sense when I played them in a mutated version of an outdated style from my childhood,’ Newman himself noted. Unlike, say, last year’s second Bon Iver album, the seventies AM rock references are not a slightly cheesy, dusty resurrection, more a longing for a simpler time - and reconciling that with the modern day.
Musically he’s at his most confident, and he still gives us a few choice lines from his ‘Encyclopedia Of Classic Takedowns’, but the songs Newman is singing - in a voice that just scrapes the bottom of falsetto, not unlike the Shins’ James Mercer - are about dislocation and uncertainty. He’s spoken openly about how major life events - his mother dying, the birth of his son - are addressed on the record (how could they not be?).
The (near) title track is an up-front and, subsequently, pretty devastating reflection on death, counterpointed by the likes of ‘There’s Money In New-Wave’ - where Newman advises his son on the most profitable ring to throw his hat into - is as funny as any of the Pornographers’ meta-analyses, whilst also being quite sweet.
‘I didn’t want to portray it like I felt like was the first person that’s gone through this,’ Newman said of the album’s content; this self-awareness helps this to be a truly mature and well-rounded work, with a complete lack of pretension, and a lot of warmth and heart.