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A.C. Newman: Slow Wonder

 
Small Wonder AC Newman has unleashed upon us perhaps the greatest record of the year.

Hold it. Hold it! This just in. A telegram from my sense of good judgment? I was certain it’d given up on me by now...

"Short review to follow. Stop. Best album of the year so far. Stop. Do not ruin this masterpiece with typically excessive gushing. Stop. Tell everyone to buy this album. I repeat: do not spoil any of this. Stop."

Occasionally a band will contain too much talent. Ideas whiz back and forth with such speed and utter thickness that no matter how good it is, the music can often end up over-thick, overwhelming, and oft times overwrought. Dan Bejar, Carl Newman, and Neko Case make up 3/5 of the New Pornographers, whose two albums have made for some of the quirkiest, most dazzling, yet wholly disengaging pop recorded in the last five years.

Similar to Dan Destroyer’s remarkable and recent Your Blues, AC Newman’s Slow Wonder finds the pop whizkid able to stretch out and fill an LP with exactly what his unfailing pop instincts compel. As a result of this liberation, Newman has just knocked off an album bursting with songs containing more unique pop hooks than the entire modern pop-punk catalogue.

"Miracle Drug" kicks off with that surfbeat familiar to all Pornographers fans. A key and guitar powerchord jags intermittently throughout a sad tale perhaps recounting Newman’s father’s death. Power equals emotion equals emotion equals catharsis. A pop mathematician, this music is really ever so precise. A later tune on side A is just as catchy as the rest, but includes a whistled chorus simply because Newman can do this. It works. A cello riff, unimaginably perks up the new single of the year, "The Town Halo". I played this last one from the DJ booth and, I’ll tell you, nothing I played that night could touch that sucker with a ten foot pole o’ pop...that is, until I played "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five" by a Newman hero, Paul McCartney.

I only wish someone involved in this mind-numbingly perfect album had used the foresight to have printed out Slow Wonder’s lyrics. I find Newman’s thick Canuck accentuations, what may be called a Vicki-esque pop-robot whine, a bit tough to filter meaning, or even the correct words through—in other words, I usually can't understand a damned thing he's saying. This is bad especially if he is within a mile of his hooks in lyrical cleverness. For real's. I was certain for the longest time that the crisply epic "Battle for Straight Time" was somehow about "that newfound steak knife." What can I say? Small quibble. Small wonder. Slow Wonder.

Slow Wonder: 10/10. Read some more of Alan Jacobson’s stuff in the pages of Chicago’s Third Coast Press and on his music zine:
http://transmitterreceiver.tripod.com/modernkicks.html.
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