Song 197: A.C. Newman, “They Should Have Shut Down the Streets” (2012)

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In the span of a couple years, Carl Newman’s mother died, and his son was born. The album he recorded over that period, Shut Down the Streets, is fittingly at odds with itself, like it doesn’t know whether to mourn or celebrate.

My favorite song from the album is “They Should Have Shut Down The Streets,” which contrasts the hugely important death of a parent with the fact that people die every day. Life goes on, but why should it? Shouldn’t the schools have closed? Shouldn’t there have been a massive procession with presidents and other dignitaries? Shouldn’t they have shut down all the streets?

I love this song because, though we know it’s about Newman’s mother’s death, it’s broad enough to apply to any personal event in the grand scheme of things. This is massively significant to me; why is that dude just walking his dog like nothing happened? Why is there nothing on the news about this? Why is the sun shining? We know that’s not how life works, but that’s often how it feels.

Newman’s day job is lead singer and songwriter for the New Pornographers, who are one of my favorite bands, but I don’t think he gets enough credit for his solo work. The Slow Wonder is one of the best records of the aughts, and Shut Down the Streets was one of last year’s highlights.

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