A. C. Newman
Shut Down the Streets
Oct 10, 2012 Web Exclusive
The New Pornographers’ frontman Carl Newman wrote Shut Down the Streets after his mother’s death and before his son’s birth, and as open and airy as these songs sound, they are also anchored by weighty lyrics about indecision and ambiguity. In other words, the album’s cover, featuring Newman standing in a spacious glade surrounded by fallen trees, is perfect.
The album’s first song is also its best. “I’m Not Talking” is bittersweet pop of the highest order, one that addresses the idea of writing about the joy and sorrow that comes with experiencing life and death: “No one wants to weigh things down,” sings Newman, “but they tend to fly away, and rescue teams will look for days/I like the way things are/I say abandon the search.” It’s a lovely thing, full of the emotional determination that often follows a tragedy.
Closer “Shut Down the Streets,” which addresses the loneliness of the mourning process, is a worthy complement. “They should have shut down all the streets,” the song begins, before slipping in to a dream sequence: “The roads we drove down all lined/lined with people cap in hand/and crying/that went on for miles and miles and miles.”
As is the case with all of Newman’s work, there are plenty of surprises here, many of which reflect the surprises of the death and birth of loved ones. “Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns,” the closest Streets comes to New Pornographers’ territory, provides a startling shot of energy, and the self-assured “Strings” gives the album’s middle some needed focus.
“I hope you know I love you,” sings Newman on one track, and it’s to his credit that it isn’t clear, nor does it matter, if his subject just arrived or just left us. He simply wanted to let the sentiment fly away.
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 9/10