Thursday, October 25, 2012

A.C. Newman & The Mynabirds Bring Infectious Pop to Maxwell's

If you're a fan of catchy indie pop with lots of hooks, Maxwell's was the place to be Wednesday night for the doubleheader of A.C. Newman and The Mynabirds. Newman, of course, is the frontman for the New Pornographers, and a number of the songs on his solo albums sound similar to that group.

Videos of two songs from A.C. Newman's new album, filmed by La Blogothèque.
The tunes on his third solo disc, "Shut Down the Streets," feature his most personal lyrics to date, as he's mentioned in interviews: in the last couple of years he's experienced the highest of highs (the birth of his first child) as well as a devastating low (the death of his mother). (See the Pitchfork and MTV interviews.)

A.C. Newman playing at Maxwell's
A.C. Newman at Maxwell's Wednesday.

There are, of course, elements of the familiar New Pornographers pop sound, but there are also echoes of an earlier era: Newman has said he was influenced by 1970s folk-rock singer-songwriters such as Jim Croce and Gerry Rafferty.

The instrumentation on this new album (and on the current tour) takes a new turn as well; the traditional guitar-bass-drums-keys sound is nicely augmented by clarinet, flute, and saxophone—instruments that can often add a sad or wistful touch to a song. (Download two songs from "Shut Down the Streets" at Newman's website.)

"Shut Down the Streets" is a beautiful album, and Newman and his band do a fine job of recreating its sound in concert. 

Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds
Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds.

The Mynabirds, led by Laura Burhenn and musician/producer Richard Swift (who is currently also a member of The Shins), got a lot of attention and critical acclaim with their 2010 debut album, What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood." Like Newman's new album, it drew on '70s influences including soul and folk-rock.

The new Mynabirds record, "Generals," is a a more pop-oriented record, sometimes raucous, and with ample percussion and even some dance songs. This all makes for a fun live show, and though the lyrics to many of the songs are politically oriented, the show never feels preachy.

The Mynabirds were a good opener to A.C. Newman, and certainly a band worth seeing in their own right.

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