You may recognize the voice, not necessarily the name when you hear Canadian artist, A.C. Newman. His golden billowy swells trademark the innate ability for capable indie pop expression. A more familiar chant for your curiosity may be the potent power pop jams such as Twin Cinema’s “Use It” or Mass Romantic’s “The Fake Headlines”. Yes, undoubtedly the New Pornographers are singular, in terms of sound and musical dexterity in the indie scene. And their fearless leader since the beginning has been Newman himself, hoisting the sails. Newman’s newest outlet is dubbed Shut Down The Streets and it arrived by way of Matador Records on October 9th.
There is something to confide in on this record, something fascinatingly relatable. From the initial outcry on the opener, “I’m not talking” to the flowing outro ballad, “They should have shut down the streets” Newman beautifully choreographs the ups and downs of his recent life happenings and how they happened to have been monstrously transforming. “Until then, until then, until they’ve reason to think I’ve a shot at redemption, until then I’m not talking. No, I’ve never been close, thought you should know, no I’ve never been close I want you to know, No, I’ve never been close, I’ve never been close but I’ve never been far away”. Newman gives us a front row seat; an open window into his being with these words as he ostensibly unloads his inner workings. The vocal and lyrical sincerity are contagious along with the smattering of folk instruments mixed with poppy electronic havens that target the most focused of listeners. One would do well to be sensitive with this album as it holds the gripping force of Newman’s internal process with the recent death of his mother and the recent birth of his son, Stellan.
There are hints of James Mercer-esque melodies on this record also. Newman has his own unique way about him, still some of the guitar tones, arrangements and vocal qualities are reminiscent of The Shins and their frilly contribution to the indie scene. A.C. Newman has the vintage edge down though; with ideal guitar selections on top of electronics (but not too much) and the palpable folk percussive touch as well. Most of the characteristics on this album are fitting, which makes the album cover incredibly poignant. Newman’s façade blanketed by a forest with the center focusing on Newman atop a fallen tree potentially hinting at a metaphorical triumph of some sort. From the cover to the lyrical content to the instrumentation there is a new philosophy brewing. His recent brush with absence and presence has left a mark on his songwriting and it is unmistakable with every note. “It’s hard to understand the absence, we had to be there. We swapped up to the problem bright and it’s so bright, it takes no dry. But is it too much to lose or too little left to live for?” These lyrics from the track, “Wasted English” are perhaps the evidence of the remnants of doubt in his life. It is still there but he gets it. He is questioning but he accepts the factors out of his control. Superb album in every facet, it is the first time in a while I have been able to emotionally engage in an album right from the get go.