Shut Down The Streets
If The Shin’s Oh, Inverted World was cataclysmic of some sort of new, post-90s indie-pop resurgence circa back 2003/2004, A.C. Newman’s debut The Slow Wonder was head of the bunch that came with it; literary, patient and with a new enthusiasm for classic, simple songforms.
In a way, his aesthetic stands out today against much of the guitar pop and rock that has come since. Sticking with simplistic and perhaps dated album art that aligns pretty well with a supreme dedication for a quality of song that has slipped since the heavy hitters of the 60/s70s.
Shut Down The Streets starts out bold this way; a strong set of acoustic guitars punch in on “I’m Not Talking”, matched with violins that Belle & Sebastian might deploy at their more emotive moments. But there’s a particular buoyancy or oblique pop energy to this opener (and the majority of the record) that avoid anything hokey or twee. The Neko Case-featuring “Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns” is a little more interested in hamming things up, but even that’s restrained in it’s gallop. The central concern of Newman’s pop appears to be getting back to basics, which more often than not across Shutdown opens things up for classic pop transcendence. “You Could Get Lost Out Here” delves pretty deep into pastoralia with it’s slow shuffle and sort of “Range Life” suggestions.
The masterful, signature chord progressions find success again on “Strings”, which places just as much on verse/chorus exposition, but unfolds and builds more gradually.
Shut Down The Streets works best on these more spacious and slowly growing ballads because of Newman’s proclivity for the quietly symphonic. But it’s the idea of “high stakes” running through his stuff, lyrically and in the vocal peaks of choruses as well as a more general sense of urgency, that perhaps lends the most weight. “The Troubadour” with it’s repeated chorus of “Stop me at the door” is a good example of the vague anxiety of a relationship about to collapse, lover about to leave or other classic benchmarks that have characterized ballads over the years. The main pejorative may not necessarily making things new, but Newman’s pop is still some of the most realized, and listenable out there.