Tag Archive | "AC Newman"

The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers

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The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers

Posted on 12 September 2014 by Dorian

Most reviews of Brill Bruisers, the 6th album by Canada’s New Pornographers, focus on this being a return to form “their best since Twin Cinema”. This is only half true, it is their best album since Twin Cinema but as their last two albums were both excellent as well I see it more as a continuation of consistently good form.

Brill Bruisers

Brill Bruisers does seem to be a return in some respects, retaining the slight melancholy of the last two albums but restoring some of the more high-tempo pop elements from the earliest recordings. This is widescreen pop, lots of guitars, lots of keyboards, pounding drums and LOTS of voices. You only have to listen to the brilliant title track to be sucked in by the multiple vocal tracks blending perfectly together.

AC Newman retains the bulk of the lead vocals here, and writes the majority of the tunes, but also hands vocals (backing and lead) to regulars Neko Case and Kathryn Calder. Their voices on the albums “slowy” ‘Champions of Red Wine’ being pitch perfect stuff. Additionally we get vocal assistance from Neko’s bandmate Kelly Hogan on four tracks and Amber Webber of Lightning Dust dueting with Dan Bejar on ‘Born With a Sound’.

Dan Bejar provides three tracks here and they are all excellent additions and a nice change of texture from the Newman songs on the record. Lead single ‘War on the East Coast’ being a great slice of power-pop and showing another side to the enigmatic Bejar in the process.

However, as much as this is a real band effort, and one where each member does their job brilliantly, a New Pornographers’ album is only ever going to be as good as Newman’s songwriting and his choice of arrangements. The good news is that things are looking good in both those departments, with this being an album that has no quality dips from start to finish. What it might lack in the sparkling surprises of those first three albums is an overall sound and quality throughout the run.

That isn’t to say that the album holds no surprises, even for a seasoned fan of the band. ‘Drug Deal of the Heart’, sung by Kathryn Calder, is short and simple (eschewing the more showy approach of the rest of the album) and sounds like a Magnetic Fields song (or a 6ths song at least).

It may be an album without dips, but it does have peaks, not least the double punch of ‘Wide Eyes’ and ‘Dancehall Domine’. The former showing Newman’s genius at holding back Neko Case’s vocals to a small part in a song where the obvious thing would have been to smother it. Less really can be more. The latter is just brilliant guitar pop with brilliant pop vocals and perfectly encapsulates Newman’s approach to producing a modern twist on glam rock. And by glam rock we are looking at a sweep of music that goes all the way from ELO to Sigue Sigue Sputnik, the latter being an act that are rarely quoted as influences. But if Newman wants to look to Sigue Sigue Sputnik and then produce an album this good then it is clearly a much better idea than it looks on paper.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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A C Newman – Shut Down The Streets

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A C Newman – Shut Down The Streets

Posted on 15 October 2012 by Joe

Of The New Pornographers many talented members Carl Newman’s solo output has arguably been overshadowed by the more complete work of Dan Bejar (aka Destroyer) and Neko Case.

Bejar’s Kaputt was a deserved fixture on many 2011 best albums lists and Case, who has delivered a number of sublime near perfect country tinged gems such as Middle Cyclone and Blacklisted during her solo career.

Sadly Newman’s two solo albums, also under the name A C Newman, before this year have been tame in comparison. Slow Wonder (2004) had a handful of good tracks, mostly at its powerful start such as Miracle Drug and On the Table, but the production suffered from Newman’s basic drumming arrangements. And while this was addressed on 2009’s Get Guilty, with the hiring of drummer Jon Wurster, the album still had too many fillers. It was also too akin to the New Pornographers weakest album to date the lacklustre Challengers.

But finally with his third release Shut Down the Streets, Newman has an album to rival his fellow supergroupers. An emotional year for Newman, in which his mother died and his son was born, provided the moving inspiration for an album that ends up being a celebration of life and makes the listener feel good to be alive.

A considered approach to production, with deliberate nods to the 1960s such as on Hostages, gives Newman’s pitch perfect vocals the chance to shine. The album does slip a little into dad rock territory at time, which perhaps is not a bad thing for a new dad like Newman. But at least fatherhood appears to have driven out his usual opaque lyrical style for a directness to finally match the punch of his music.  Lines such as “we’ve been waiting for you” on Strings about the birth of his son may sound corny, but at least they are to the point.

The crowning glory though is his decision to enlist Case for backing vocals duties throughout. Their harmonies are one of the wonders of the modern music world and in the absence of a New Pornographers album this year it’s great to hear them together again. The track Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns, in particular leaps out as if it were classic New Pornographers thanks to Case.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

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AC Newman – Get Guilty

Posted on 17 September 2010 by Joe

There is a certain fear surrounding Carl Newman, the New Pornographers front man and power pop stalwart, that as he gets older the power will fade and he will pop no more. Surely such consistently catchy indie-rock cannot last forever?

The last New Pornographers’ album, 2007’s Challengers, hinted at more subdued offerings to follow. Thankfully Get Guilty, his second solo album under the name AC Newman, allays such concerns, and delivers another package of tight, punchy songs.

Among the best are opening track ‘There Are Maybe Ten or Twelve’, ‘Like a Hitman, like a Dancer’ and the slower ‘Prophets’. Surprisingly the album’s first single ‘The Palace at 4am’ is one of the most pedestrian tracks on the album, still good, but far less memorable.

7.5/10

by Joe Lepper, Jan 2009

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