Via: Chicago Tribune

A.C. Newman, founding member and primary songwriter in the New Pornographers, had to get a few things off his chest before he and the band could make one of the most exuberant rock albums of the year, “Brill Bruisers” (Matador).

“The solo album I did in 2012 (‘Shut Down the Streets’), I had to get out of my system,” he says of an album that was the most introspective and personal of his career. “I would’ve felt full of (expletive) if I made this record (‘Brill Bruisers’) back then. It would’ve been a total lie. There was a bunch of stuff going on, a combination of the birth of my son and the death of some people close to me. It was nice to come out the other side of that and know that I wanted to make a different record, a killer rock ‘n’ roll record.”

Newman’s recent personal upheavals included a move with his family from his hometown of Vancouver to Woodstock, N.Y. Making New Pornographers albums was already somewhat of a juggling act with the careers of band members Neko Case and Dan Bejar (who records as Destroyer) taking off. Newman aimed to make the recording process a little more leisurely by building a studio in his new home, where the band members could drop in and out as needed in a low-pressure, no-time-clock situation.

“I made this record as easy as possible,” Newman says. “We did a lot of recording in (co-producer) John Collins’ apartment years ago when the band first started, but this is the first time I’ve been in my home. It makes you feel very human, especially during the spring and summer. I’d see my wife walking around with my toddler, and I’d be able to take a break during a recording session and hang out with them for half-an-hour.”

Newman says that fatherhood has had an indirect effect on his life as a musician and songwriter. “Becoming a father made me feel I had something to prove to my son,” he says. “I didn’t want him to grow up thinking that his dad used to be a musician, but that his dad is a musician. I think about that, having that sort of longevity. There are a lot of things left for him in the music. I may be dead by the time he appreciates them, but there’s a song about when I met his mom, and another that I wrote when he was born. There are little messages all through the music he might not understand now but will later.”

One of the messages he’s sure to get with “Brill Bruisers” is that his father sure knows how to bring pop-rock songs to a boil. It’s an album bursting with melodies, long a New Pornographers hallmark, but also a more adventurous approach to keyboards and vocal harmonies.

“We changed the way we used the keyboards on this record, with a lot more programming of arpeggiators,” he says. Bejar’s songwriting contributed heavily to the uptempo feel. He responded to Newman’s challenge to write a song that sounded like U.K. new wave band Sigue Sigue Sputnik by composing the buoyant “War on the East Coast.”

“It sounds ridiculous to ask someone to do that, right? But he delivered,” Newman says. “I thought it was amazing, so fast and propulsive, and because of that I had to speed up my songs by 8 to 10 (beats per minute). I knew the Dan song can’t lead into my slow song. We’re very serious about what we do, but I like the idea of bringing in almost absurd influences. Dan did it on (his 2012 Destroyer album) ‘Kaputt,’ using the saxophones and trumpet in a way you wouldn’t think. That’s why when we start using those arpeggiators, it sounds like ‘Xanadu.’ I think that’s awesome, partly because no one else does.”

The soundtrack for “Xanadu,” a 1980 movie starring Olivia Newton-John, includes music by ELO, one of Newman’s Big Three of New Pornographers influences. The others are Paul McCartney’s Wings albums from the ’70s and Lindsey Buckingham. All specialize in the kind of intricate popcraft that has defined the New Pornographers’ six albums since 2000.

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