I dig pop as a prefix: an inclusive, accessible spirit introduced to outsider genres; an aspiration to wider attention (pop-punk, pop-metal, pop-rock). Pop as a style’s root noun is less intriguing, though—it connotes an exclusive, subcultural take on MOR. A.C. Newman’s Slow Wonder, the solo debut from New Pornographers mastermind Carl Newman, is loaded with indie-pop, retro-pop, “power”-pop (let’s be honest), avant-pop, and Brit-pop.
Without those terms of preface, the album’s limp-wristed, purposeless, offhand ditties would reek of failure. If there’s more to the lyrics than “scrambled eggs, baby how I love your legs,” Newman’s voice isn’t strong enough to make it known (or he’s not bothering). Though there’s little of the powerpuff zoom associated with the New P’s here, uptempo grins like “On the Table” make denying the pleasantness of it all impossible. Calling Newman’s forefathers superior is a moot point, too; ’60s classics and off-kilter ’80s cult dweebs like the dB’s and Game Theory would probably be too distracting for hardworking grad students, what with their energetic arrangements and refusal to fade into the background. Since people are always claiming radio is just something to zone out too, maybe Slow Wonder is pop after all.
A.C. Newman plays the Bowery Ballroom August 12.