A.C. Newman is neither Hawaiian nor Harvard grad, but oh, yes he can. This Inauguration Day, the lisping ringleader of that maximalist pop conglomerate The New Pornographers unveils his second solo album, Get Guilty.
Pitchfork called his 2004 solo debut The Slow Wonder "soulful sing- alongs with grit, pop nuggets that hold up to hours of repeat play, and ultimately, the sound of a great songwriter hitting his stride." Get Guilty both expands on and synthesizes his talents, with the introspection and nuance of The New Pornographers' last album Challengers, but with more immediacy and the excitability of his most- loved songs.
Get Guilty showcases beautifully Newman's fascinating blend of catchiness and impenetrability - witness the first single, "The Palace At 4 A.M.", a Top 40 singalong that namechecks a Donald Barthelme short story and talks of Polynesian dives, bingo, and bombs. "Thunderbolts" is from the point of view of a gang of young troublemaking gods, and "Like A Hitman, Like A Dancer" distills the 1967 film "Le Samourai" into a simple tale of indecision. Still, those simple thrilling hair-on-back-of-neck moments so familiar to Newman fans are plentiful here: The explosive "change your mind" in "Changeling (Get Guilty)"; the unexpected heart-tugging harmonies of "Like A Hitman"; the crescendo coda of "The Heartbreak Rides". "Spot The Influence" is a perennial sport to play with Newman's songs, and he himself confoundingly explains his formula as a cross between Keith's "98.6" and 10cc's "Dreadlock Holiday." That said, he cops to "Elemental"'s guitar solo being a tribute to the band Felt, and "The Collected Works" an effort to meld George Benson's "On Broadway" with Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls". Which could all be a ploy to deflect the Jimmy Webb comparisons, but we've seen his record collection and the guy goes deep.
Players on Get Guilty include drummers Jon Wurster (Superchunk, Mountain Goats) and Charles Burst, an array of strings, horns, and woodwinds, and vocalists Nicole Atkins and Mates Of State. It sounds familiarly lush but not overworked, and even intimate. Dramatic themes recur - change, water, self-doubt, gods and prophets - yet an optimistic beauty prevails. The stately opening track gives way to the orchestral, romantic road trip of "The Heartbreak Rides," and the album closes with one of his most direct songs ever, "All of My Days and All Of My Days Off," a love letter to his wife about their wedding day.
A.C. Newman pens melodies that seem to have sprung from the collective unconscious and then encases them in bright, lush power- pop arrangements." —Rolling Stone
"A.C. Newman deserves every last bit of praise thrown his way. In a better world, he would be our Elton, our Todd, our McCartney." —All Music Guide
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