As the front man/principal songwriter for the superb Canadian collective the New Pornographers, Carl Newman (“A.C. Newman” when recording by himself) would seem to have little need (or time) to pursue his solo sojourn. Yet on Get Guilty, his follow-up to 2004’s The Slow Wonder, Newman again taps into his bottomless well of meticulous pop, a 12-track testament that this guy writes songs in his sleep.
But it’s a question still worth asking: Why not save the material to showcase for another New Pornographers album, one that would likely generate more attention and buzz? It’s not hard to imagine anything from Get Guilty on a New Porns record, such as the charming harmony on “The Palace at 4 A.M.” Even the female backing vocals throughout (handled here mostly by Nicole Atkins) will make fans think of—if not yearn for—Neko Case and Kathryn Calder.
Admittedly, that’s a petty—and perhaps obvious—nitpick. Unlike, say, Ryan Adams (easy target, right?), Newman’s prolificacy has yet to threaten the quality of his output. If anything, Get Guilty validates Newman’s standing as the go-to guy in the New Pornographers. Though his solo work lacks some of the cachet that the New Pornographers boast with Case and Dan Bejar (a.k.a. Destroyer), the music is still plenty enjoyable and just as damn catchy.
Ambiguous lyrics aside (“Strike on, zero,” he wails on “Prophets”), there’s a comfort in Newman’s perfectionist arrangements, from the orchestral leanings of album opener “There Are Maybe Ten or Twelve” to the power-pop bliss of “Submarines of Stockholm.” But the highlight here comes from the jaunty “Like a Hitman, Like a Dancer,” its stop-and-go rhythms—aided greatly by stick work on the snare drum’s rim—doing enough to keep the pace fresh and lively.