New Pornographers' A.C. Newman Is Going To Start A Jam Band

This is the first Newman project that doesn't come front-loaded with its best and most eager-to-please material -- "Shut Down the Streets" simmers for most of its first half. But those who stick with it will be rewarded with some of the warmest and most personal songs of Newman's career. (

Okay. I guess. I'm not sure what the songs are that jump out in the second half as opposed to the first half. I've noticed this a lot, I don't know how I feel about it, but a lot of people are going, 'I love [opening track] "I'm Not Talking".' Like, just picking it out and going, 'That's one of my favorite songs,' and not saying much about the rest. I read one review where that was the thrust of it: 'He came out of the gate with this one great song and the rest of the album doesn't keep up with it.' Sometimes you can be insulted by that, but I also think that I have been that music listener. Remember that song 'Tenderness' by General Public? When that came out I thought, 'This is the greatest song I've ever heard!' And I just wanted to listen to it 10 times in a row. And I bought the record and I don't remember much about the record but it didn't matter. I didn't care because it had one song on it that was so great, and that song was so great that if you asked me if I liked General Public I'd go, 'Yeah, I really like General Public.' So if somebody just loves a couple songs by me, I shouldn't cry myself to sleep over that. I will say that it always feels very vulnerable when you make a record. I don't know whether I should feel proud of all of it or embarrassed by all of it. I go back and forth constantly.

He is the straitlaced pop scholar to Dan Bejar's schizophrenic genre outlaw, the driving engine behind the success of one of indie's biggest millennial bands but never the kind to pull on any heartstrings, to really stand up and beg to be noticed. Shut Down the Streets is an album that longs to defeat that perception, to go onward into some brave new territory -- hell, Newman seems to already be there on the album cover -- but it can't help but keep one foot in the past. (Sputnik Music)

[Pauses for several seconds] What does that even mean? [laughs] I dunno about that one. I will say this: Lyrically it can be a little annoying to constantly be in the shadow of [New Pornographers'] Dan [Bejar] because Dan is such a great lyricist. But I know my lyrics often make more sense than Dan's. Not to say they're better in any way, I think he's a much better lyricist, but it's annoying when Dan will write something that's really cool but there's no way anybody could follow the narrative, and then I'll write something that has a very clear narrative, like, 'How can you not tell what I'm talking about?' and people say, 'Oh, Newman's hiding behind oblique lyrics.' I'm not sure if this person is saying that, maybe they're not, but I have gotten that in other reviews, like Pitchfork. I think it annoys me on this record because more than ever I was writing about real, obvious things and just because someone can't follow them because they don't have good reading comprehension or they don't care enough or whatever ... I dunno. It's also maddening when there's a song that's very personal and somebody dismisses it. I think most people, even people who write middling reviews for this record, they treat the song 'Shut Down the Streets' with a certain amount of respect because they're like, 'He wrote this for his mother so I'm not gonna be a total dick. I'll be a dick about other things on the record.'

I'm sure someone will be a dick about that song eventually, and when I see that review I'll wanna kill that person with a baseball bat. But I won't. I think overall a lot of the songs have connected with people, and that means the most to me. It's what I've always tried to do. From the beginning of the Pornographers I've always been trying to keep up with Neko [Case] and Dan -- not trying to pass them but just trying to be in the same league. When we were making Mass Romantic Dan had just made City of Daughters and Neko had just made Furnace Room Lullaby and I thought, 'Wow, my two friends just made the best albums of their careers.' Then flash forward a decade and Dan made Kaputt and Neko made Middle Cyclone and they've made the best albums of their careers, so I didn't even try [laughs]. I just gave up. I went, 'Okay, I'm not gonna make anything like that,' so I thought I'd make my little personal record.

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