A.C. NEWMAN plays Lee's Palace October 21. See listing. Rating: NNNN
Carl Newman, best known as the frontman for the New Pornographers, became a father and lost his mother since his previous band and solo releases. But those changes haven't led the red-haired melody-maker, once Vancouver-based but now living in the wilderness of Woodstock, New York, into weariness or despondency. Rather, his third album is remarkably joyous.
That might not come across on the first listen. The vibe is laid-back, without the instant gratification of his previous work. But his twisting, climbing melodies continue to uplift and inspire awe, especially when paired with Neko Case's glorious voice, as they are throughout. His genius is in the details: the drawn-out mmms of I'm Not Talking, the distinctly Newmanian oohs of Do Your Own Time, Encyclopedia Of Classic Takedowns' thrilling chorus.
Lyrically, he's still clever but also much more direct, and there's greater impact because of it. He offers career advice to his son in the self-explanatory There's Money In New Wave, gets lovey-dovey in Strings and devastates us in the title track, written after his mother's funeral. He's at his gentlest and subtlest, though, in You Could Get Lost Out Here, perfect for a walk through the woods with the leaves coming down.
Top track: Encyclopedia Of Classic Takedowns