A.C. Newman – The Slow Wonder

A.C. NewmanThe Slow Wonder (Matador)

A.C. (Carl) Newman follows his fellow New Pornographer Dan Bejar with an excellent solo release that is sure to make many a critic’s year end top ten. Whereas Bejar put out the art album of the year with Destroyer (review), Newman has put out a power pop album that sounds much like Mass Romantic outtakes. Keep in mind; this isn’t a bad thing, as The Slow Wonder contains eleven songs that highlight how tremendous of a songwriter Newman is.

“Miracle Drug” (mp3) is so damn catchy that you fear Newman set you up for disappointment the rest of the way. However, the bouncing “Drink to Me, Babe, Then” (mp3) tops it with perfectly timed symbol crashes and hand claps. Each song stands out as a pop gem and deserves a paragraph of praise. “On the Table,” “Most of Us Prizefighters,” and “Secretarial” are reason enough to play The Slow Wonder over and over again.

Yet, Newman slows the tempo with faultless precision on “Come Crash” and “The Cloud Prayer.” Singing, “Once again, you’re a Godsend” on the former you can’t help but think this translates to the timing of the release of the album. Saving his best for the end Newman incorporates a cello of all instruments to turn “The Town Halo” into a song of the year candidate. And brings the listener to their knees with the tremendous closer “35 in the Shade.”

In what might become the Year of the Pornographer, The Slow Wonder is a half hour of concise and catchy power pop songs. You’ll find it hard to get through the entire album because of hitting repeat after each one.

MP3s via Matador.

9 thoughts on “A.C. Newman – The Slow Wonder”

  1. The first song, “Miracle Drug,” is one of his best. What an incredible vocal melody. You know Mr. Newman is really the bees knees of pop songwriting because you almost come to expect this kind of thing from him. Fantastic singer, too. The next, “Drink to Me Babe Then” sets the tone for several other songs with a lopey gait, a few of several moments that are really quite Pavementy, were Pavement a bit more straightforward and had a singer who cared.

    The review above points out that each song is really quite fine, and that is true; taken one by one they are all wonderful little goodies. But I don’t know if it’s a sequencing thing or what, but the album starts to drag a bit in the middle. There are many ingenious pop moments, but they aren’t quite as instantly indelible. So I must disagree with Nick’s review: I think the first two songs set a dangerous precedent–think if MASS ROMANTIC began with “Letter from an Occupant.” It could also be familiarity: Carl Newman has one hell of a bag of tricks, and he sure does use them.

    Fans of power pop appreciate how fine a line great songwriter/bands toe. They attempt to nourish you with originality, unpredictability and edge while goosing you up with hooks and sugar. On the other side of that line, music teeters close to artifice and becomes cloying or fatiguing. There is no question in my mind AC Newman is one of the most gifted practitioners of this art. But I will cop to the fact that I do find this record, like the New Pornographers’ records, to be somewhat fatiguing to take in all at once.

    So far, for me, the album is the first two and the last two songs, but there’s a lot in there, and I’m definitely going back for more.

  2. Hi. It’s me again–“babblin’jagoff.” I really should emphasize that each song on SLOW WONDER is brilliant in its own right, and the record is very brief (33 minutes?) so never mind my minor bitchery above.

  3. Great album, very good review. The first time I heard “The Slow Wonder” I wasn’t sure it compared with Mass Romantic or even Electric Version. By the third time, I was sure. Definitly worth buying for fans of the nu-pop genre.

  4. I bought the The Slow Wonder on Saturday and listened to it almost the entire way from Chicago back to Detroit on Sunday. Like I think barabajagal may have realized, certain songs will stand out at first and you’ll keep repeating them over and over. But the more you listen to the entire record, you’ll realize that the songs you’ve been skipping over are just as good as those you’ve been repeating. Go out and buy it.

  5. At least this grant from the Canadian govt. was $ well spent! Can’t wait to see him perform in Vancouver next month.

  6. This is right up there with Of Montreal as the best CDs of the year! So good! And “On the Table” is the saddest happy song ever, or happiest sad song ever. Barabajagal is right, as vocal melodies go… these are awesome. This guy is a master of melody! The chuggin’ Hawaii 5-0 riff in The Town Halo seals the deal.

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