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A.C. Newman and his New Pornography; Our Lady of the Highway drives its sad bastard music to 12 Galaxies

What happens when AC Newman, leader of Vancouver quirk-pop outfit the New Pornographers, makes a solo record? Well, it sounds like the New Pornographers, but without Neko Case or Daniel Bejar fucking it up by cluttering the amazing melodies. (No disrespect to those two -- we do, indeed, think they're cool, even though Bejar's latest Destroyer record is pretty disappointing.) On The Slow Wonder, Newman deals '60s rock vocal melodies but sings them with reggae phrasing and a lisp; he also crams about 4 billion chord changes into every verse he writes, and his choruses are often brief afterthoughts. Yet there is never one moment when Newman isn't playing a catchy pop song. Last we checked, they called this sort of thing genius. Wonder is 11 songs of Newman at his finest, sounding far more stripped down than his Pornographers output, but filled with as much gooey sweetness as a jumbo-size Twinkie. For this tour, the songwriter has assembled a full band to render his latest collection. You can catch him on Friday, July 9, at the Bottom of the Hill; call 621-4455 or go to www.bottomofthehill.com.
Abigail Clouseau

Our Lady of the Highwayplays sad bastard music, the kind that reeks of whiskey and self-pity and three-day-old tuna sandwiches left to rot on the kitchen counter. Lots of bands make this kind of music, but this Oakland quartet sets itself apart from Sgt. Pepper and the rest of the lonely hearts club. Maybe it's the way Dominic East sings, his clarion-call voice declaring his latest heartbreak with an assertiveness that bespeaks his pain. Or maybe it's the players' skilled use of tension, how they saw quietly on a violin or pluck at a guitar until the moment calls for righteous release. Probably it has everything to do with East's lyrics, which eschew choruses and rhymes for stanzas that careen like a car wreck you can't tear yourself away from. Our Lady of the Highway offers a pity party worth attending on Friday, July 9, at 12 Galaxies. An American Starlet headlines and JT & the Clouds open; call 970-9777 or go to www.12galaxies.com.
Dan Strachota

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