McCartney had four producers on New: Paul Epworth (who works with Adele), Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse), Ethan Johns (Laura Marling, Ryan Adams) and Giles Martin (the son of the Beatles’ producer, George Martin, and the catalog expert who mixed the Beatles mashup for Cirque de Soleil’s Love).
They’re not predictable; Martin, though steeped in Beatles lore, produced both Appreciate and Looking at Her, a tale of infatuation that moves in and out of the electronic. Johns excels with acoustic instruments in real time, but he also produced Hosanna, a devotional love song with swells of droning tape loops. The songs are full of contrasts. It’s easy to imagine McCartney gathering his favorite phrases from assorted works in progress and challenging himself to pull the miscellanies together.
Throughout New, McCartney calls for love and kindness. “Keep on sending your love,” he urges in Save Us, the lean and insistent rocker that opens the album; “Do some good before you say goodbye,” he counsels in Everybody Out There, which has a touch of REM’s folk-rock.
But in Early Days, McCartney lets his perpetual boyishness fall away. To a folky tune akin to Mother Nature’s Son, he recalls the very beginnings of his pop career. His voice isn’t entirely smooth; there’s a scratch in it, and a little peevishness as he complains about retrospective credit for Beatles achievements: “Everybody seems to have their own opinion, who did this and who did that.” It’s a reminder that his usual charm isn’t as effortless as his melodies can make it seem.