A.C. Newman - Shut Down The Streets

As self-reflective and prone to quiet moments as much as he is able to pen a proper pop melody.

‘No, I’ve never been close / But I’ve never been far away’ sings Carl ‘A.C.’ Newman on ‘I’m Not Talking’, the opening number of ‘Shut Down The Streets’. Newman’s been plying his trade of witty, oblique power-pop for about ten years now, keeping us at arm’s length whether with The New Pornographers or on his solo records. With this, the third record under his own name, he’s finally letting us in.

‘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‘My most personal songs ever somehow made the most sense when I played them in a mutated version of an outdated style from my childhood,’ Newman himself noted.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.

Tags: A.C. Newman, Reviews, Album Reviews

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