AC Newman’s Shut Down The Streets will be welcome listening for those who want to extend the summer past the album’s October release date. The album’s instrumentation is flecked with major key twinkling of banjos, dulcimers and Rhodesy keys that make it easy to forget that it is getting colder outside. In contrast, the lyrics are filled with modesty, reflectiveness and wisdom that feel closer to someone who is earnestly dealing with loss and who knows the value of preparing for the impending winter months. The combination of these elements makes Shut Down the Streets an ideal album for an open-windowed, full volume listen while autumn cleaning.
The blend mentioned above is most clearly felt in the opening track ‘I’m Not Talking’. The song’s chorus, “Until then/until there’s reason to think I have a shot at redemption/I’m not talking”, is immediately followed a particularly transcendent, moving melody.
AC Newman doubles down on this theme in the most sing-along-able track on the album. ‘Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns’ is a classic up-tempo pop song; still it opens with the lyric: “Are we judged here by the things we say/or is it just the noise we make/long before you were a patent pending/there was a time when you were the artist
friendly one”. Much of the album is honest and personal in this same way.
The well-placed accompaniment from AC Newman’s collaborators is outstanding. The use of banjo as the backbone element in ‘Strings’ and ‘The Troubadour’ provides a natural complement to dampened drums and clean guitar. Also, the use of the hammer dulcimer to carry the melody in a straight, up-tempo pop song was pleasantly surprising.
Shut Down the Streets, of course, reaffirms AC Newman’s well-established pop prowess, but its most compelling aspect may be its direct, earnest lyrical approach.
Words: Paul Kellner