AC Newman (of the New Pornographers)

The Echo Presents

AC Newman (of the New Pornographers)


Tue, November 13, 2012

8:30 pm


Los Angeles, CA

$14.00 - $16.00

This event is 18 and over

AC Newman
AC Newman
The phrase "dad rock" is our young century's go-to rock-critic insult, a cheap pejorative redolent of
organic vegetables, sensible minivans, corny puns, tasteful guitar interplay, Steely Dan over-worship, and
so forth -- the sound of settling.

Which is ludicrous, of course, and a disservice to dads everywhere. Because fatherhood is hardcore. The
hours are gnarlier, the bodily fluids more plentiful, the range of emotions (unconditional love,
unmitigated terror) more intense and vertiginous and harrowing and thrilling than any drug-fueled,
orgiastic rock-star bender you'd dare imagine. (Motherhood is even crazier.) To be a new parent, to
simultaneously be a son or daughter, to be an ostensibly responsible adult human being with dependents
and dependencies -- this is unimaginably fertile songwriting ground, the satisfactions you get, the
satisfactions you'll never get.

Which is to say that New Pornographers leader and full-fledged power-pop genius A.C. Newman's third
solo album is the punkest thing he's ever done – and also the quietest, the sweetest, the subtlest,
simultaneously the most emotionally fraught and spiritually contented.

It begins with a delicately blissful song about being "in a strange in-between space where the things I had
always strived for – perfect happiness, success, being the best at what I do – were suddenly not nearly as
important as just holding onto what I had," as he puts it, and ends with the saddest, most direct and
heartbreaking song he's ever written. In between is "dad rock" in its purest, most powerful form.

Yes, Shut Down the Streets ends with the title track, gorgeous and devastating in equal measure, which
concerns the recent death of Newman's mother. From "Electric Version" to "Miracle Drug," "Sing Me
Spanish Techno" to "Submarines of Stockholm," it's been possible throughout his career to dearly love his
songs -- their wry lyrical enchantment, their watchmaker-precise economy -- without really having any
idea what the hell he was talking about. “Shut Down The Streets,” by contrast, slow and solemn yet
bravely buoyant, begins thus:

They should have shut down all the streets
Presidents and kings should've been there
With not a single empty seat
All the schools closed
And the roads we drove down all lined
Lined with people, cap in hand and crying
It went on for miles and miles and miles and miles

This is not Spanish techno. "I felt the need to be more clear in the lyrics on this album than ever before,"
he explains. "Not worry so much about the poetry of it. It felt like the message really had to be clear. At
the least, more clear than before."

But coping with death is only part the message here; most of the rest of the songs celebrate new life, in
the form of the birth of his son, Stellan, and the bucolic life Newman is carving out for his family in
Woodstock, New York -- what he calls "my private new world." The shuffling gait and plinking
keyboards of "You Could Get Lost Out Here" make clear that he is lost out there, and a little nervous for
it, but also not a little exhilarated.

There is wit and even cleverness here -- it's an A.C. Newman record, after all, and exquisite, sugary
melodies and expertly melded boy-girl harmonies (most courtesy of longtime collaborator Neko Case)
come standard, along with failed-relationship laments recounted with the proper mix of gravitas and
bemusement. (Song titles: "Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns" and "Wasted English.")

Still, where the sugar shock of the New Pornographers' Mass Romantic or first solo album The Slow
Wonder seemed designed to give you the best headache you'd ever had, this time he's aiming for
heartache -- a sharper pain, a greater reward. Better yet, it's the good kind of heartache, the bursting-with-
joy kind, the kind reserved exclusively for young parenthood. There's an advice-to-my-son song here
called "There's Money in New Wave," which is funny, of course, but also gets at the funny way you're
simultaneously desperate to help your kids succeed and fearful that you won't have any idea what to tell
them, what to do for them.

The true heart of Shut Down the Streets might be "Strings" and "Hostages," both exquisite and infectious,
both expressly about Stellan, the latter described by Newman as "a straight-up joyous song," the former
based on this premise: "We wanted to have a baby so much that I made a promise to the world that I
would never complain again if this wish was granted to us. Now that we've been given this, I constantly
have to remind myself not to be full of shit and live by the promise that I made."

“Strings,” too, immediately ranks among the most direct and unambiguous things he's ever written: ''
'We've been waiting for you' is a simple line of no great artistic worth, but it is very very true," he insists.
He's only half-right.
Alex Casnoff was the keyboard player for some serious LA bands, Dawes and PAPA, but he was really a songwriter. Casnoff needed to do his own thing so he introduced the world to Harriet in the fall of 2011. The band's debut EP, Tell The Right Story, is filled with murder ballads, dreams and memories about messed up people pushing forward no matter what. There is an anxious optimism and a deep dark sense of humor that bleeds through each of the five songs. There is no way out. You will never get there. But there is no excuse for giving up. A fate, accepted and then ignored.

The EP straddles the line between classic American songs and the sonic experimentation of electronic music. The band continues to delve deeper into this contrast, and that's what's most exciting about Harriet. At every show, and with every new song, they get closer to codifying the Electronic-American sound.

Harriet's music is evolving into something familiar, filtered through a dream. Songs that strive to live comfortably within the distorted memory, and take no stock in chasing the past. The anti-nostalgia. The music's repetition, groove, and build come from minimalism and dance music, and that mixed with their slightly crooked American rock songs and alluring hooks, equals something that is both emotionally and physically satisfying. Harriet is a band that starts with a good song, but makes fucking it up a priority.

Go see them live. They take chances, precisely altering any and every song completely, making their experience as fresh as ours. Expect the unexpected. Hear the unheard. See the unseen, and be the unbean...

Alex Casnoff, sings and plays Guitar and Keyboards. Aaron Folb plays electric and synth bass. Henry Kwapis plays drums, percussion and SPD. Adam Gunther plays Guitar.
Venue Information:
1822 W. Sunset Blvd
The Echoplex is located below The Echo, enter through the alley at 1154 Glendale Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90026