Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A.C. Newman

It's not every week I get to review an album previewed by the Huffington Post.

AC Newman
Shut Down the Streets

A.C. Newman’s third solo album filters spiky pop through a Vaseline-smeared lens, strummy guitar lines bristling against glossy synths and made-for-TV saxophone solos. Following Dan Bejar into the gleaming corridors of 1970s radio pop (Newman claims Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” as an influence), he undercuts his strengths, the swagger, the oblique sardonic cuts, the giant pop crescendos that mark his best work.

Newman says Shut Down the Streets is about “about birth, death, happiness and sadness, chronicling a time in my life where all those things had to learn to coexist side by side,” and indeed the emotional timbre shifts weightlessly from melancholy to giddy euphoria. There are sad lines buoyed by massive, triumphant melodies, humorous asides couched in melancholy baroque string arrangements. Yet, with a few exceptions (“Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns,” “Hostages”), Newman works large themes with constricted, needlepoint-ish precision. He is, perhaps, himself the “author of small works” cited in “I’m Not Talking.” He seems unable to let the songs fly.


He also did a live show at WFMU on Saturday.

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