Hearing Aide: Paul McCartney’s ‘New’

paul-mccartney-new-hbnt-10In some sense, Paul McCartney’s 16th solo studio album is appropriately named. By titling the album New, McCartney suggests that in his seventy-first year, he’s making music unlike anything he’s done before. For someone as accomplished as McCartney, this is a pretty big statement. While the album’s four producers, Paul Epworth (Adele), Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse), Ethan Johns (Kings of Leon), and Giles Martin (son of George Martin), contribute new age aspects to the music of a man who co-wrote his first number one song in 1962. McCartney himself approaches New with songwriting topics unfamiliar to his sixty year career.

New is McCartney’s first album of original material since 2007’s Memory Almost Full. Since then, he’s written classical music for the New York City Ballet production, Ocean’s Kingdom, performed with three surviving members of Nirvana, released an album of standards as Kisses on the Bottom, and re-married for the second time. As long as this list of achievements may be, side projects, legendary collaborations, and re-marriages are nothing new to McCartney.

What makes his most recent album “new” presents itself in the first ten seconds of its opening track, “Save Us.” Controlled distortion introduces a guitar riff straight out of The Strokes’ 2011 album, Angles, creating an indie-rock feel that quickly merges with a driving piano and classic McCartney courting: “I can try to give you everything you ever wanted / You’re not hard to please.” Tracks like “Alligator” and “Appreciate” also display the efforts of New’s all-star production team, incorporating Danger Mouse-esque beats and synth work far removed from the Abby Road days. The album’s standout tracks, however, come as acoustic ballads focused on McCartney’s life before the Beatles. “Early Days” recounts the beginnings of the McCartney/Lennon relationship, and “On My Way To Work” is told from the perspective of a pre-fame McCartney. It’s these glimpses of personal insight that make the album different than McCartney’s work in the past; the album is an opportunity to look back and appreciate, to recognize what is new.

Key Tracks: Early Days, New, On My Way To Work