A.C. Newman has a lot of questions that seem to need answers on his latest solo effort, Get Guilty. The Canadian native, co-brain behind indie music’s biggest pop rock icons, The New Pornographers, has helped pen some of the catchiest tunes to date, each one with mainstream cross over potential, and endless commercial possibilities as we have seen with a few of their tunes already. Behind all that lies the truth that A.C. Newman is a key songwriter for this generation, not to mention the main influence for any flash in the pan indie band that may pop up between now and, well, forever.
With his main outfit behind him, the notes soar between harmonies and catchy hooks that will inevitably get stuck in your head, but never in an annoying way. When solo however, Newman’s lyrics go from fun loving and dirty to almost deep and philosophical. A hint of the Pornographers’ magic is in there, but only in the music as the words draw you in to seek your own answers to his questions.
“There Maybe Ten or Twelve” sets the guide lines for unraveling the record. At the end of each verse, Newman and his female partner in harmonies ask us to “make of that what you will”. Do not force the meaning out of the words he has written, but instead let the meaning come to you as the situation allows it. All of this is backed by a simple folk-inspired melody with subtle piano and percussion work, which is then outlined by thick low-toned guitars sinking in the repetition of the main melody. Aside from the open topic, it fails to really sink in musically, and the dry repetition is ultimately what keeps it from going anywhere special. Campfire charm takes over the album from this point. Each song is acoustically charged with perfect sing along moments and power chord charges to boot, as is the case with the energetic “Like A Hit Man, Like A Dancer”. Even when electrics take over the melody, like The Who inspired “Prophets”, the story telling is only built up to match.
For every New Pornographers record, there are inevitably one or two songs that will get stuck in your head, and Newman’s solo effort is no different. “Submarines Of Stockholm” is that track. It’s inescapably catchy chorus carries hooks that stick like gorilla glue on your brain. Thankfully it’s not a painful and it’s hard not to bounce and sing along with the “la la” harmonies. “The Palace at 4am” and “Changeling (Get Guilty)” might send you into random outbursts of whistling and head bobbing. These tracks are a bright and sunny strum session, and just another testament to Newman’s pop-writing abilities. The latter features a chorus that will have you singing, “change your mind” all the way through.
What you get in Newman’s third solo effort is deeper than before. More questions and delicate moments, like with “Young Atlantis”, to compliment the simple yet undeniably catchy chord structures and vocal melodies. Newman has mastered his craft, and there is nothing to feel guilty about with this addition to his catalogue. It is exactly what you would come to expect after more than a decade under his influence. Even with his thought provoking words, to not have fun with this record would be missing the point entirely.