Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A.C. Newman - Get Guilty (2009)

A.C. Newman's "Get Guilty" is a fair starting point for this blog to begin again. It's a simple album that is anything but simple, like most of Carl Newman's power-pop that he's known for. The album gets off to a good start in the first half, containing some of his finer melodies in the past recent years (and a major step up from most of the stuff from New Pornographers' last LP "Challengers") that do what Carl does best while also making his music sound all the more new again. In reinventing himself on his solo album he affirms listeners why his music still matters when it seems that his music might be starting to show signs of fatigue.

"The Heartbreak Rides" stands out as a one of the best tracks on the album, doing a good job of doing what Carl does best, using his pop standards to get a typical love-song message across, while at the same time creating a sonic sound that is totally original and yet familiar at the same time. Carl has the freedom here on his solo album to take chances that The New Pornographers aren't able to, doing slower ballads that sometimes don't go anywhere yet make for unique songs ("Thunderbolts," "Young Atlantis") and yet still creating striking work.

This also turns out to be the album's downfall as well. Too often the songs seem to be all build-up and no payoff. Not that there needs to be. Maybe that's what Carl is going for. But when the song sounds like it's going somewhere (again, "Thunderbolts") and never arrives it makes for a wavering experience, losing confidence in the singer in his handle of the material. It's still better than most of the albums out there you'll listen to this year, so it's worth a purchase and multiple listens, there are many things to pick up on repeat listens, as Newman is usually known for with his wall of sound approach, but this time the silent spots are more noticeable and good in away. Plus "Like a Hitman, Like a Dancer" just rocks and makes no sense at all. And that's what Carl does best.

Standout track: The Heartbreak Rides.
Rating: 7.9

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