Highlights: I’m Not Talking, Encyclopedia Of Classic Takedowns, There’s Money In New Wave, Hostages, They Should Have Shut Down The Streets
Shut Down The Streets is A.C. Newman’s own, solo version of Challengers. A quieter, mellower, more understated affair that might seem like a terrible letdown for those with poor attention span. But same as The New Pornographers’ fourth album, Shut Down The Streets never really stops giving away its undeniable melodic charms (Newman is one of the best songwriters in business) slowly and reluctantly.
All very recognizable though: thoughtful vocal melodies, Neko Case, inventive arrangements, tasteful production. And, of course, a number of pop masterpieces too boot. Speaking of which, nothing here shines as brightly as the album’s opener, “I’m Not Talking” that is this year’s most perfect song. From the heartfelt acoustic rhythm to that deceptively simple, hair-raisingly brilliant melody to the effective clarinet riff, it’s one of A.C. Newman’s best songs ever (and that includes his New Pornographers contributions). The ones that come closest to it are the masterfully titled ballad “There’s Money In New Wave”, the classic, flute-augmented pop of “Hostages” (pay attention to the arrangements) and the closing moody charmer, “They Should Have Shut Down The Streets” which has that truly magical, mesmerizing reticence.
No weak tracks here (as further listens prove), but there’s no question that lovely, unassuming things like “The Troubadour” are prime A.C. Newman filler. Still, even those offer more musical and instrumental ideas than most indie artists can dream of.
In the end, you do get the feeling that at some points Newman was going for refinement rather than good old catchiness. And still Shut Down The Streets is a gorgeous, slow-burning wonder (no pun intended). I might prefer Get Guilty overall, but this is an unmissable treat.