Enumerating the differences between an A.C. Newman solo record and a New Pornographers record is almost the very definition of splitting hairs. Newman’s penchant for popcraft – and adoration of ’60s AM radio – is a defining factor in both cases; but, as with 2004’s THE SLOW WONDER, this year’s GET GUILTY finds Newman indulging in a more expansive version of those sounds. Newman’s knack for tight and deceptively complex arrangements is in full effect on cuts like the classic rock-tinged (and flute-flecked) “The Collected Works” and the jaunty “Like a Hitman, Like a Dancer.” The warm and lush power pop of the Pornographers is, when Newman is left to his own devices, morphed into something more angular and forceful, more clearly illustrating his penchant for twisted lyricism (see “The Palace at 4 a.m.”). Still, the biggest irony here is how Newman’s solo work probably employs more musicians than the already plus-sized Pornographers; with orchestral players, guest vocalists, two drummers and God knows who else, GET GUILTY is thick with well-crafted indie-pop arrangements and layers of harmonies, all rooted in Newman’s particularly gifted form of songcraft.
First appeared Jan. 20, 2009 at Shockhound.com.