A.C. Newman | Get Guilty
Most Likely To: form the soundtrack to a stroller lap in Park Slope.
It’s hard not to wonder why so many songwriters with successful bands need to release solo records. The songs on Get Guilty, A.C. Newman’s second solo release, could almost shimmy their way into a New Pornographers’ record, except that Newman abandons his band’s trademark spit-shined peppiness in favor of a more relaxed approach. Since releasing The Slow Wonder (2004), his debut solo record, Newman has relocated from Vancouver to Brooklyn and gotten married. But these life-changing events don’t seem to make a bit of difference in what he produces. If anything, Newman is the hipster’s everyman now more than ever. (I’m looking forward to candid shots of Newman wandering around NYC with a baby in a pricey stroller.)
The New Pornos have based their career on tighly-wound song craft, and at times they can be too chipper. Newman solo has a bit more give, and it’s a relief. If New Pornographers generate power-pop filtered through the lens of Guided By Voices and the Shins, then Newman solo plays up the latter (“The Heartbreak Rides”). Newman’s not afraid to be earnest, or to slow down the tempo (“There are Ten or Maybe Twelve” and “Prophets”). It’s not always obvious where he is heading with these songs, but that is part of the fun. For example, rim shots drive “Like a Hitman, Like a Dancer” with precision until the multi-layered chorus wrests the control away.
Despite a couple of duds (“Submarines of Stockholm” and “Thunderbolts”), the record ends on a high note with the syncopated piano groove of “The Collective Works” and the hook-filled (ode to his wife?) “All of My Days and All of My Days Off.” Get Guilty is loaded with contenders – semi-memorable songs that just might survive in heavy rotation for the next six weeks or so. While Get Guilty isn’t a classic, it is solidly entertaining and that is enough. Once upon a time, Newman would have been ripe for VH-1 heavy rotation. Now he has to content himself with cementing his adult contemporary cred by covering A-Ha’s “Take on Me” for a Starbucks compilation which will be released this Valentine’s Day.
Listen to “Submarines of Stockholm” from A.C. Newman: