A.C. Newman

Shut Down the Streets

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A.C. Newman, the wry, prolific, poker-faced New Pornographer, has kept his cards close to his vest over the years, pairing offbeat stream-of-consciousness lyrics with mercurial power pop melodies that suggest a steady diet of Cheap Trick, Guided by Voices, and Pet Sounds, but on Shut Down the Streets, his third solo outing, the native Vancouverite and current upstate New York denizen comes clean about his personal life, ruminating on the birth of his son, the death of his mother, and all of the conflicting emotions that hitched a ride along the way. This newfound sincerity manifests its way into the music as well, swapping out propulsive guitar for banjo and distorted Farfisa leads with clarinet, resulting in the artist's most pastoral offering to date, a notion lent further substance by the verdant, retro-singer/songwriter packaging that finds Newman striking his best Gordon Lightfoot pose beneath a rugged forest canopy. Warm, wistful, and as lush on the inside as its woodsy cover would suggest, standout cuts like "I'm Not Talking," "You Could Get Lost Out Here," and the slow-burn closer "They Should Have Shut Down the Streets" marry the winsome chamber pop of New Pornographers ballads like "The Bleeding Heart Show," "Challengers," and "These Are the Fables" -- fellow Pornographer Neko Case's unmistakable backing vocals are sprinkled liberally throughout -- with breezy and ornate late-'60s/early-'70s psych-pop. It's hardly a recipe for disaster, and though Newman's penchant for crafting songs with quick chord changes, sneaky melodies, and bridges that break in two often requires multiple spins before one can properly point out the chorus, Shut Down the Streets is as accessible as it is rewarding, and as refreshingly idiosyncratic as it is revealing.

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