AC Newman :: Shut Down the Streets

Right from the first opening notes of the very first song I find myself smitten with this album. There is a swaying ease to the songs on this new release from AC Newman, working solo on this new release, that conjurs up 60’s bands like The Yardbirds and The Byrds, with a little Love thrown in. There is a 60’s and easy listening 70’s sensibility to this album that I cannot shake, thus the comparisons. Honestly, listening to Shut Down the Streets reminds me of many of the albums my mom had in her record crates that I would lose myself in as a young girl.

There is even something about the album cover that recalls those years, and teases at my childhood musical memory quite a bit.

My initial favorite song is Encyclopedia of Classic Takedown, which features the lovely voiced Neko Case sing-songing along. There is a bouncy lightness to this song that is impossible not to bop my head to. This song is more modern in its musical comparisons, calling to mind Belle and Sebastian and, of course, AC Newman’s co-project The New Pornographers. This is the most Pornographers similar sounding song on the album, actually.

Strings is another early favorite of mine, a little less bounce and a bit more melancholic in nature than my first favorite, but still chock full of ease and melodic beauty. Again, I am reminded of those early albums I loved so much growing up, which probably has a lot to do with what has drawn me so quickly into these songs.  This is one of those tracks that I find myself repeating a few times before going on to the next song.

There is something about the opening notes of There’s Money In New Wave that reminds me immediately of the theme to Love Story. The comparison made immediately bringing a veil of sadness to the song for me, even if the lyrics themselves do not necessarily take me to a sad place themselves.

The opening track, I’m Not Talking, is a melding of the 60’s and easy listening 70’s mentioned before with The Postal Service in its sonically dreamy sounds. Though not my stand out initial favorite, I do suspect this will become my longterm favorite, as this has all the trappings of “best song of the album“. This truly is a brilliant and beautiful tune. If I were to make one suggestion though, to make it even better, I would say I wish Susanna Hoffs had dropped by the studio and added some backup vocals to this; I can so hear her voice slipping into the in-betweens and taking this song into even further brilliance.

The final song on the album is also the title song of the album, and is lyrically quite heartbreaking, though to me the sadness is lost with its too soft vocals and overpowering music. This is my least favorite song on the album, though if reworked slightly, especially in the case of turning up the vocals, it may have been my most favorite. I tend to grasp hold of sad songs tightly, cherishing them and keeping them close to my heart. But, for me, this song falls flat and ends the album on too mediocre of a note. In response, I tend to either end the album the song prior, the neo-country sounding The Troubadour, or skipping forward to the start of the album, giving it another “spin” again.

Overall, there is such an familiarity in this album, to me. I turn it up and close my eyes, seeing memory movies of me donning bell bottom corduroy overalls, sitting inside my Grandparents RV, accompanying them on one of their long Summer vacation trips we used to take up the coast. I was always tucked into the seat just behind where my Grandfather sat as he drove that behemouth of a vehicle. I would be there right behind him in that makeshift table and couches that turned magically into a twin bed at night. I would have a small cassette player/radio combo balanced in my lap with a one ear headphone in, listening to these kinds of songs, as we drove along.

This album makes me miss my Grandfather quite a lot.

Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns :: AC Newman

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