Tag Archives: Arcade Fire

The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

26 Jul

It was announced this week that Arcade Fire have completed work on their forth albums. Details are sadly short on the ground, but it will be the follow-up to The Suburbs, one of the most critically-acclaimed and sadly forgotten albums of the last few years.

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Whereas their classic 2004 album Funeral was a bombastic ode to childhood, the Suburbs saw the band looking back at their own adolescence through the prism of the places where members Win and Will Butler grew up, the suburbs of Texas. The first few songs capture the uncertainty and boredom of being a teenager in a world ruled by adults, while still managing to create a radio hit in Ready to Start. There’s a heavy sense of nostalgia weighing down on them, a childhood that’s been irreversibly lost.

From there, the album skips on a couple of years. The children – friends, siblings, lovers? – of the early chapters have grown up and are returning home after ‘the markets crashed’ in 2008. The only thing worse than yearning for your youth is having your illusions about it shattered, but that’s what happens. The climax as the album is a two part song called Sprawl. The first one is a mournful, barely musical dirge in which the protagonist attempts to find his old home in the dark and fails, while in the second Win Butler’s wife Régine Chassagne gets to display her vocal talents in an ABBA-inspired track about the daily 9-5 grinding you down. The contrast beautifully sums up the album’s complex and mature themes.

There are a dozen more things I could rave about, from the constant threat of an apocalyptic war that hangs over the early tracks, the clever symbolism of light and darkness throughout or the way it manages to make big statements without ever coming off as pretentious. After the emotionally barren music that we are so often offered nowadays, an album that asks so many personal questions about you comes as a shock.

Full disclosure – it may not be the genre-defining masterpiece I imagine it to be. It may just be the tales of leaving your childhood home struck a chord with me at a time when I was beginning university, leaving a permanent imprint, but that’s exactly what good music should do. It should say the things you can’t and explain the world to you.

The Misfits

14 Oct

I’d like to pay homage to some bands that I haven’t quite gotten to talk about, not because of any faults with these bands, but because they each bring something different to the table.  Whether it be through interesting instrumentation, unique song structure or unique influences, I couldn’t quite fit the following bands into any other category. Here goes nothing.

They may have recently garnered a Grammy for Album of the Year and yet it’s still not the Arcade Fire’s best album.  Don’t get me wrong, the winning album is good, but it gets away from their baroque roots in favor a more modern rock sound.  “Neon Bible” and “Funeral” both sound like complete orchestras as many of the band members play multiple instruments, accentuated as band members switch up what they play during songs (compared to the new album which is more guitar heavy).  The varied instrumentation and the influences of multiple styles of music makes Arcade Fire more than a band that keeps churning out similar sounding albums, but a group of musicians that creates many different cool sounds.

Beirut also features a full band but centers really on a single particular influence not normally heard.  I mean, who listens to Eastern European folk music (like polka) and decides they want to start a band with it?  If you didn’t get the hint, that’s what the members of Beirut did, fusing Eastern European folk music with indie pop sensibilities, highlighting such a global span with songs in other languages, notably French.  Like  Arcade Fire, Beirut does not rely upon the guitar and instead mixes up instrumentation to create music corresponding to their influences.

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