When Paul McCartney sat down with producer David Kahne to record his latest album, Memory Almost Full, which comes out June 5th, the ex-Beatle said he wanted it to compare to everything he’d ever done. “I said ‘Everything?'” Kahne recalls. “He said ‘Everything.’ He was looking to make something great.” We’ve had a chance to listen to the new disc, McCartney’s first since 2005’s Grammy-nominated Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, and while it’s not quite Sgt. Pepper’s, it’s pretty great. The album has a retrospective feel, with nods to McCartney’s discography: “Nod Your Head” sounds like “Come Together” and “Only Mama Knows” feels like a more metal version of “Helter Skelter.” The second half includes a five-song medley that recalls side two of Abbey Road. The medley revisits different eras of the musician’s life — from childhood summers by the sea to the experience of getting old and looking back — but it never sounds nostalgic or especially sad.
On the contrary, Macca seems to embrace the future, in both the lyrics and music: On “Vintage Clothes,” he sings “Don’t live in the past/Don’t hold on to something that’s changing fast,” before Trent Reznor-ish industrial effects drop in, giving the song an eminently modern veneer. McCartney has also made several moves leading up to the release that signal his embrace of change. He left Capitol Records last year and signed with Starbucks’ new label Hear Music, which will release Memory Almost Full. He has also agreed for the first time to release all of his solo music digitally and just shot a video for album opener “Dance Tonight,” directed by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry, and starring Natalie Portman. “‘Memory Almost Full’ is a phrase that seemed to embrace modern life,” McCartney, in a letter released to the public, said of the album title, which came to him after the message popped up on his cell phone. “In modern life, our brains can get a bit overloaded.”