Tag Archives: Arcade Fire

Review: Arcade Fire at MSG

22 Sep
Arcade Fire In Concert - New York City

Credit: Billboard

When I attend a concert I intend on reviewing I take a series of mental notes to add content and spice to the review. Generally, the notes are brief and dull, a collection of tracks the band performed well and perhaps some words on the audience. However, Arcade Fire’s Sept. 12 performance at Madison Square Garden garnered an eclectic series of notes, perhaps most akin to that of a tropical birthday party of an eccentric retired boxer.

  • Boxing ring for a stage. Seriously, not just a box stage. There are ropes. The band enters through the crowd on the floor while mock boxing statistics are projected onto the board.
  • The board features some jerky animated individual with a western drawl and TV static for a face. It’s mighty odd. That is replaced with alien advertisements for products during songs from the Everything Now album – the band is on point with its social commetary
  • Haitian dancers for “Haiti.” That makes sense. Nice touch
  • Great moment for Hurricane Harvey relief – Win Butler plays The Suburbs in honor of the city of Houston and urges individuals to donate to a charity that is projected on all of the screens
  • The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the opening act, comes back for the final tracks during the encore – the sound is electric.

Pair those notes with a sold out MSG crowd with a crowded dance floor and perpetual sing-alongs, especially with “Wake Up” – which was practically yelled by the crowd – at the end of the concert, and you have a vibrant, eccentric concert. Like anyone would expect anything less from the Indie Rock superstars. Since released Funeral in 2004, Arcade Fire has blended creative Indie Rock with mainstream sing-alongs and accessible tracks – always balancing aberrant, polarizing sounds with catchy melodies. That is Arcade Fire’s charm, and a big reason why they were able to sell out MSG with an unsurprisingly engaged collection of fans spanning the band’s history.

I saw the band once before during their Reflektor Tour, but this go-around seemed more electric and inspired. The band seemed more confident. They sprawled around their boxing ring stage like predators, playing each track with an effervescence engendered by the raucous crowd. You could sense just how much the band enjoys what they do and there appreciation that people like the product. This vivacity never faded throughout the concert and the band practically had to be forced off the floor, playing an amalgamation of the chorus of “Wake Up” and “Stand By Me” as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band buttressed the performers as they walked toward the side entrance, Win Butler, the lead singer of Arcade Fire, singing until he finally got to the tunnel. A fitting end to a unique concert by a skilled band at the prime of its career.

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We Don’t Deserve Everything Now – New Arcade Fire

31 Jul

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Arcade Fire, the uber-eccentric Canadian Indie Rock band, released its fifth studio album last Friday. The album follows the natural progression for Arcade Fire who embraced the dance rock feel with their last LP Reflektor. For Everything Now the band brought in Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter and the sound reflects this collaboration.

Arcade Fire and I have a volatile relationship. I embrace a few of their tracks, placing those songs in the rare coterie of “listenable no matter what,” but there are many tracks that just fall flat to me. Hence, I judge Arcade Fire releases accordingly. Everything Now features a few absolute clunkers – dance rock needs to be pretty infectious for me to enjoy it and, well, several of the tracks on this album just don’t do it for me. That said, I will say that Arcade Fire’s focus on lyrics this album was a big success, and I enjoy the theme. The big release is the title track, which serves as the central motif for the album – its melody opens and closes the record. Here is the track below:

Sensationally catchy, right? That melody is toe-tapping goodness. The sampling of “The Coffee Cola Song” by Francis Bebey works well – I always appreciate some well-placed pan flute in music. The song is even electric in lyric – “Every song that I’ve ever heard
is playing at the same time, it’s absurd” – a Delillo-like wall-of-sound image. The song is one of Arcade Fire’s finest since The Suburbs. However, it is not the best song on the album. That is reserved for the song that closes out the album (putting aside the reprisal of the title track).

I’m not sure why “We Don’t Deserve Love” has not received more attention in the critic’s reviews of the album. Perhaps it is the type of song that will grow on listeners. For me, though, the song’s significance hit immediately – this track is Arcade Fire’s most sincere in years – a true testament to the excellent band that Arcade Fire is when it gets down to its Indie roots. The song’s electric rhythm calls to Radiohead’s most recent release – a bit morose but eclectically beautiful. The dulcet and eerie melody reflects the lyric perfectly – a song about trying to persist with a loving connection in a sea of confusion and mixed messages. Consider the lyric below:

The men you love always leave you alone
You hear your mother screaming
You hear your daddy shout
You try to figure it out
You never figure it out
Your mother’s screaming
That you don’t deserve love
If you don’t deserve love
And if I don’t deserve love
Could we deserve?

The string of lyrics are telling and the rhetorical question at the end is so sad but oddly hopeful because who the heck cares if one “deserves” love – love is love – even in the infinite content wasteland portrayed in Arcade Fire’s album. Through its warped melody is clarity and that seems like an eloquent concluding message for the album.

ATMIG Blends Authentic Sound With Make Believe Childlike Wonder In Song Trip

23 May

ATMIG impresses with their vaudeville like vibe within their song titled Trip. Blending the right amount of visual elements within the music video, and strong, poignant lyrics setting up a story-like wonderment make everything work together harmoniously. ATMIG sounds very similar in sound to the raw Mountain Goats and the old school acoustic jams. A unique fact about the group includes being the first non-label release under Third Man’s vinyl pressing plant in Detroit. By combining the themes of reality, dreams, and childlike wonder, ATMIG successfully keeps listeners engaged wanting more music to be created from them sooner, rather than later.

For more listening:

The Top 10 Songs of 2013 – Preview

5 Dec

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Rejoice! The Music Court is bringing back the end-of-the-year Top 10 song list. Hooray. It’s the highlight of any holiday season! Ok … maybe it’s just some reading fodder that you can scoff at when you binge on holiday leftovers. For the rest of December, the Music Court will feature our list of the top 10 songs of 2013.

Check out the full-song in-review of The Top 10 Songs of 2010 and The Top 10 Songs of 2011 by clicking on those links, or click on the subcategories on the right-hand side of this page to view individual posts. There is no 2012 list (sorry!)

First, some logistics prior to previewing the list. In order to be considered for this list, the song must have been released in 2013. Yes, this seems obvious. But when I say 2013, I mean that the song may have been released as a single in 2013, or if it was not released as a single, it must have appeared on an album released in 2013. Often songs are released on albums the year prior to when the song is released as a single. This simply provides us with more options.

This list is clearly subjective. It is completely biased to the taste of those at the Music Court. That being said, you can certainly berate us for getting everything wrong. That’s the fun part of these lists. Comment on rankings you disagree with. Give us your top 10! We want to hear from you. Also, please understand that I (Matt) am not the biggest rap/hip-hop fan. Thus, the list is skewed towards pop/folk/rock (my beloved genres). There is a rap song on the list, though. I promise.

So … what songs almost made it on to the list but couldn’t quite supplant any of the top 10 songs? Here is the list leading up to the top 10:

19. “A Song about Love” by Jake Bugg

18. “Afterlife” by Arcade Fire

17. “Southern United States” by Leif Vollebekk

16. “Winter Road” by Bill Callahan

15. “New” by Paul McCartney

14. “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke

13. “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk

12. “365 Days” by ZZ Ward

Robin-Thicke-Blurred-Lines-Ft-TI-Pharrell

Get_Lucky

But, how? “Get Lucky” and “Blurred Lines” were arguably the two most popular songs in 2013. They should most certainly appear on the top 10 list. You must have something against Pharrell Williams, who is featured in both songs. Credit to Pharrell, by the way. What an amazing year! In June he became the 12th musician in history to hold the #1 and #2 spot on the Billboard Top 100 at the same time … and for two COMPLETELY different songs. Incredible. But, while both songs fall close to the top 10, I do not just go by mainstream success. Both songs are as infectious as chocolate-covered pretzels, but, to me, the top 10 songs all have more enlightened qualities.

And … just missing the top 10. The #11 song of 2013:

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Know the lyric? It is “Demons” by Imagine Dragons, which many of you know because of it was overplayed on mostly all rock stations since it was released as an official single in October of this year. The lyric of the song is powerful; a clear depiction of a protagonist with pernicious flaws. It is somewhat hidden behind the crashing melodies and dramatic harmonies, but the music is just so good. Imagine Dragons certainly knows how to intertwine a catchy melody with hard rock sentiments. It’s a great song. Can you imagine the excellent stuff on the top 10 list?

Be Tuned in on Monday, Dec. 9 for the #10 song on the list! 

Nostalgia

25 Oct

Music is very effective at conjuring up memories; however some songs go further and deliberately evoke nostalgia. It is a powerful emotion than only becomes stronger the older you grow.

An obvious classic is Don McLean’s American Pie. It doesn’t just hark back to better times but a specific day – The Day the Music Died when Buddy Holly and several other musicians were killed in a plane crash. Parts of the song are autobiographical, recounting how he heard about their deaths while delivering newspapers. Writing the song helped McLean come to terms with his grief. From the first line (“A long, long time ago… I can still remember how that music used to make me smile…”), the song is drenched in painful longing for things that have passed. Coincidentally (or not), it has become one of the most played funeral songs. Feel free to spend eight and a half minutes remembering what a great song it is.

Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams is another obvious choice. It may not have the lyrical depth of American Pie, but instead hits the listener with an emotional one-two about a summer of discovering music and adolescent romance. If you’ve ever had a childhood sweetheart, it will be hard not to picture them while listening to this song.

In a record all about looking back on growing up, Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs hits the nail right on the head. It begins with a childhood tale and then proceeds to hammer it home. Win Butler admits every time he thinks he has ‘moved past’ feelings for his childhood home, they catch him again. As if that wasn’t enough, the band worked with Google to create an interactive music video that makes it even more personal, meshing ‘We Used to Wait’ with photos of your childhood home. You can find it here. Prepare the tissues if you watch it.

Gaslight Anthem also trades heavily in nostalgia. All of their songs are told in past tense, telling stories of lost loves and better times. The whole of American Slang could be on this list. One that hits especially hard is their early song Navesink Banks. In it, the narrator walks down by the decaying New Jersey shipyards near his childhood home and says wishfully, “Ah Maria, if you’d have known me then…” In reply, Maria just says, ‘Listen baby, I know you know.’ It’s a powerful moment that says there’s a place for nostalgia, but you have to live in the moment.

Hip hop hasn’t been as quick to embrace nostalgia is it’s a younger genre. Nas’s Memory Lane is noted for its realistic depiction of life in the projects. In the first verse, Nas waxes lyrical about the good parts of growing up, yet after the chorus he is suddenly consumed by memories of lives that had been lost to drugs, prison and street fights. There are no rose tinted memories. His memory lane is gritty and unforgiving, yet he finds himself reminiscing about it anyway.

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