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A.C. Newman

You may know A.C. Newman's work from the second season of The O.C. Remember that episode when the Walkmen perform at the Bait Shop? When Seth realizes--too little, too late--that he's too self-centered and should probably change his ways? Well, A.C. Newman's song "On the Table" made a brief appearance in that episode, and as far as making a dent in the mainstream pop-culture zeitgeist, that was his big moment.

Lucky for us, Newman's brief tryst with Mischa Barton is really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of his contributions to contemporary pop-rock. Most recently, we know and love him as a principal vocalist/songsmith in the New Pornographers, and his latest solo effort (after 2004's enchanting The Slow Wonder) again proves how much of the Pornographers' distinctive sound is derived from Newman's aesthetic.

The album's chockfull of tracks that beg you to sing along, from the piano-driven midtempo groove of "The Collected Works" to "Submarines of Stockholm," which reminds me of Squeeze more than anything else, though Newman's power-pop flair is more often likened to Ric Ocasek or Rick Nielsen. Overall, the songs take place largely in the tension-filled space before melodies complete themselves or find resolution, where all the instruments drone toward crescendo, but keep delaying it for yet another odd percussive tumble.

Add to the mix Newman's obfuscatory lyrics, which you'll have to decipher in order to really sing along, and you've got yourself a fine, rewarding album that you'll keep on repeat for a good chunk of the new year.

More by Sean Bottai

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