Sometimes the demands of anchoring a power-pop supergroup become too much to bear, and Carl Newman must leave behind the New Pornographers for his fortress of solitude. It is here that he magically transforms into “A.C. Newman,” mild-mannered solo artist and architect of the predictably enjoyable Get Guilty.
Get Guilty is pure power pop as grandiose as anything the New Pornographers or his first band, Zumpano, ever did. If the last New Pornos record (2007’s Challengers) sounded too much like an A.C. Newman record, as many critics complained, then it’s only fitting to say that this A.C. Newman record now sounds like the New Pornographers—paradoxically speaking.
The big harmonies usually delivered by Neko Case are ably replaced here by Nicole Atkins, along with Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel from Mates of State. Perhaps by no coincidence, lead single “The Palace at 4 AM” has the distinctive rhythmic punch of a Mates of State song, with bouncing piano keys racing to catch up with a hectic drum march. The song’s title, meanwhile, refers to a short story by Donald Barthelme, a typically snobby lyrical move from one of pop’s true eggheads.
As often happens on Newman’s records, two of the best songs on Get Guilty are buried in the second half, including the sing-along anthem “Changeling” and stringy ballad “Young Atlantis,” a movie-credits cousin of the Pornographers’ “These Are the Fables.”