I’m ashamed to admit that I was first introduced to A.C. Newman in 2005. As a High School senior and Death Cab for Cutie enthusiast this naturally meant that at the time I was a big fan of Fox’s California based melodrama, The O.C. Heralded as the epitome of music awesomeness were the O.C. mix CD’s which contained indie rock nuggets fresh for the feasting. Mix number 4 hosted tracks by Sufjan, Imogen, Beck – and one from A.C. Newman entitled “On the Table”. Four years later I’ve become enough of a rock star to not let night time soaps dictate my musical tastes but still find myself very much a fan of A.C. Newman. And with good reason- he is, after all, an unstoppable indie rock force.
Carl Newman hails from what some may refer to as America’s hat, and broke onto the flannel-friendly grunge scene in the early 90’s with Superconductor. Quickly moving on to (not much) bigger and (not much) better things he fronted Vancouver’s Zumpano. After two albums Zumpano sunk into nineties-nothingness along with Chumbawumba and Harvey Danger, but it was the new millennium which brought Newman the good fortune of making music that mattered. The New Pornographers are a seven-member, Yanks meet Canucks hybrid supergroup including (most notably): Neko Case (Neko Case), Dan Bejar (Destroyer), and Kathryn Calder (Immaculate Machine). As the ingenious lyricist and vocalist behind the phenomena Carl has gained a great deal of respect.
Which is why it comes as no shock to anyone why his solo albums under the not-so-code-name A.C. Newman are greeted with open arms by the indie-rock community. 2004’s The Slow Wonder received a quite notable 8.8 from pitchfork, who claimed it “the best power-pop album of 2004”. Five years later Carl strikes again with Get Guilty, a melody-driven narrative told through the unique vocal stylings of your second favorite redheaded singer/songwriter.
With the insane amount of releases that January has brought, Newman’s isn’t winning as the most-talked-about release of ’09 (see: Animal Collective), but Get Guilty is good. Sure, some of the record falls a little flat, including “The Palace at 4 Am”, “Elemental” and the last four song on the record, but when he hits a track, he hits it hard.
Album opener “There are Maybe Ten or Twelve” is the record’s standout track, with a thundering chorus pitted against a soft shaker-and-symbol verse (Lyric: A forehead resting on a record shelf). “The Heartbreak Rides” flows softly afterwards, growing exponentially in volume and excitedness as the track progresses. Track 3, “Like a Hitman, Like a Dancer” draws an interesting comparison between the two professions (Lyric: all muscle) and succeeds with raw acoustic riffs and drumstick taps. No one knows why “Prophets” reminds me of Bruce Springsteen, but the track is an epic one. Piano and tambourine collide behind a mumbled and beautifully harmonized vocal track. “Submarines of Stockholm” has a darker, punk edge while “Thunderbolts” has a slower pace and lighter touch. Title track “The Changeling (Get Guilty)” conjures the Beatles with a whispered pre-chorus that flows into a giddy explosion.
Bottom Line, Get Guilty will please and fill some of the void for a New Pornographer fan craving more from Newman, but we’re all still waiting for the follow up to Challengers.