Artists usually earn their celebrity before joining supergroups. A.C. Newman is a different story. Despite his great early work, he garnered most of his acclaim as leader of the star-studded Vancouver power-pop crew the New Pornographers. On his third solo release, Shut Down the Streets, Newman lets listeners into a slower, more sentimental world of his own. Songs like "Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns" smack of classic Pornographers work, particularly when Neko Case comes in. But the absolute stunner that begins the album, "I'm Not Talking," has a baroque beauty, setting a pace and theme for the rest of the album.
The recording's filled with pretty standard guitar pop, but Newman peppers tracks such as "Strings" with all manner of sounds, from glockenspiel to banjo to MIDI horns. Though he's a smart lyricist and a wizard with the pop hook, these songs reduce the sugar and make some nice tweaks to his recipe.