It’s around that time of year where 2012 is about to wind up with their music releases. We’ve already received some great album from surprising artists (Liars, Grimes, Spiritualized), and some mishaps from consistent groups (Animal Collective, Bloc Party). While The New Pornographers front man has yet to release a standout album over the years of his solo career, Shut Down The Streets had high hopes to redeem himself from the success of his band.

Shut Down The Streets opens with the single, ‘I’m Not Talking’, and allows you to settle into the more harmonic and vocal sound the album has taken. While the past sound of Carl Newman‘s solo work was determined by a heavy riff and humongous choruses, he takes more of a relaxed turn. You’re given more vocal work than ever in both of the The New Pornographers’ and Carl’s sound.

I feel like a lot of songs could have been catchier and more upbeat. A prime example is the effect that ‘Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns’ had. You’re kept on hold waiting for a climax of falsettos, but instead you’re given a fade out even though the song hasn’t even expanded. Many of the songs do the same effect of cancelling out their chances of hitting a home run, and instead settle for an on base hit. The EXACT SAME thing I mentioned happens on ‘There’s Money In New Wave’, and it is disappointing to hear.

Now this album isn’t all anti climactic. A lot of it relies on the laid back feel that Carl has taken on this release. The sixth track, ‘Strings’, is nowhere near as big as past tracks, but has hooks that should have been made on other songs. It’s a nice transition that you wanted from the opener. There’s no denying that Carl Newman has one of the best voices in Canadian rock, and it shows throughout the entire album. His vocal harmonies on tracks like ‘Wasted English’ and ‘The Troubadour‘ carry the 40 minutes of listening, and are easily one of the key reasons for turning on this LP.

While Shut Down The Streets will surely entertain previous fans of The New Pornographers and A.C. Newman, newer listeners will be on the fence. I would never call this album bad, but just underwhelming. After three years of nothing by Carl, and almost two and half by The New Pornographers, you expected him to use his time to produce just overall better tracks. I’d recommend a listen, but with open ears to move on to other releases by Newman.

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