Unlike Superman, who needs only don a pair of glasses and nerdy demeanor to cloak his identity, Carl Newman won't fool most music fans by simply changing his handle to A.C. Newman. That's because just a minute or so into the song, "There Are Maybe Ten Or Twelve," the first ditty on his second solo album, Get Guilty, that yearning voice; the majestic, brightly colored melodies; and the strings, horns, woodwinds, and other baroque-pop flourishes all make it clear this is none other than the guy who fronts the New Pornographers.
Even on his own, Newman rarely shies away from kaleidoscopic productions and big sonic statements. "Young Atlantis" doesn't remain satisfied with its simple, wistful viola-and-strummed-acoustic intro for long, not when there's Zombies-style Farfisa organ, country-twang guitars, chimes, shakers, and pillowy backing vocals to thicken the stew.
And every sudden cymbal crash in "Prophets" - one of several tracks that summon the spirit of the Who's Tommy - packs nearly as much drama as Tchaikovsky's cannons. Newman doesn't necessarily need his famously oblique NP cohort, Dan Bejar, to concoct heady, elusive lyrics: "And the eyes they were a color I can't remember/Which says more than the first two verses/And it is the devil you know that will slam the door harder/Make of that what you will," he offers in "Ten Or Twelve."
He also doesn't need New Porno's Neko Case around, not when he's got Nicole Atkins and Kori Gardner of Mates of State to provide stellar vocal harmonies throughout Guilty. Sure, it'll be nice when Newman rejoins his old pals for another New Pornographers album, but for now, by any other name he sounds just as sweet.