The first review of 2009: A. C. Newman

Future events such as these will affect you in the future!

In 2004, Carl Newman of the New Pornographers - perhaps feeling jealous of his fellow Pornos' other projects - released a solo disc under the name A. C. Newman. Titled The Slow Wonder, it was an unexpected delight, bursting with palpable joy on tracks like "Miracle Drug," "On the Table," "The Town Halo," and "Secretarial." Even the slower songs like "Better Than Most" were still interesting. It was a light album; it had kind of an effortless breeziness too it. In short, it was a really fun pop album.

Newman has recorded his second A. C. album, this one called Get Guilty, and it's another collection of well-written, well-constructed pop. But this time, he's eschewed catchiness in favor of majesty, and not always to the album's benefit*. There are more Slower songs here, like "Prophets" and "Thunderbolts." They're nice, but they lack the catchiness of the best songs on The Slow Wonder. "Submarines of Stockholm" and "There Are Maybe Ten or Twelve," the two songs made available as free downloads from Matador, are both just kind of dull. "The Heartbreak Rides" is a really good song, but it doesn't work great as a second track; I might have sequenced it closer to the end of the album.

There are some immediate highlights here, too. The bouncy "Like a Hitman, Like a Dancer" and "The Palace at 4 am" will both give you flashbacks to Newman's best work; he sounds like he's enjoying himself more on these two songs, and neither one feels suffocated by the production. And the last two tracks, "The Collected Works" throws a lot of interesting textures at you. But what's also somewhat compelling about Get Guilty is that it is a bit of a grower. "The Heartbreak Rides" is a really good song, with Newman's falsetto shining. And "Changeling (Get Guilty)" is a neat little cathartic burst of a song. So maybe Newman's sacrifice of immediacy for complexity will pay off even further down the road for Get Guilty

* - Incidentally, I remember having a similar reaction to the New Pornographers' last album, Challengers, but I seem to have misplaced my copy, so I guess we'll never know.

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