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AC Newman

Different but essentially the same

It is always odd when the chief songwriter and creative force in a group decides to go solo. This is not an uncommon phenomenon. In most cases, as was the case with the most recent and notable Indie icon, Steven Malkmus, the apple does not fall far from the tree. Such is the case with the New Pornographers' AC Newman. The longtime frontman for the Vancouver super group has released Slow Wonder, a solo record on Matador Records. The new format and freedom of working as a solo artist allows Newman to create more personal work than were found on the New Pornographers records, but fans of Newman's traditional songcraft and Indie-Brit to-the-point-ness will still feel like they've uncovered a lost Ray Davies album.

Newman began his career in 1992 as a member of the Vancouver act Zumpano. After a lukewarm response to the bands first two Sub-Pop albums, Newman quit the group to form the New Pornographers in 2000. The band's first release, Mass Romantic, was an instant success. Their brand of power pop evoked the Brit-Pop revival of five years earlier, but with a distinctly American indie kitsch and humility. The hooks gain their power with repeat listens. Newman and fellow vocalist Neko Case swagger through the material like they invented the sound. Three years later, the band released Electric Version. The album was more produced- the title being a slightly ironic reference to their previous work- but still rocked with the same energy. Newman and Co. had reached indie's elite, bringing in guest artists such as Ray Davies himself to tour and record.

Arriving only a year after the New Pornographers Electric Version, Slow Wonder sounds no less inspired. It rocks less at times, but the acoustic guitars and distant pianos give Newman's angular melodies room to breathe. Newman's twisting melodies often sound like Brian Wilson or the Shins. The solo format lets Newman genre hop a bit; elements of chamber pop and straight Lennon-esque balladry (with electric guitar intermezzos) make brief appearances; "Secretarial" sounds like the best of what XTC ever released in their early years. Newman brings his slightly schizophrenic but consistently affecting indie pop to Bottom of the Hill on July 9. In support are the Neins and The Honorary Title.