Posts Tagged ‘the arcade fire’

First Impressions Of The Arcade Fire’s ‘Suburbs’

July 23rd, 2010 | Features | 0 Comments

So, as many of you know, The Arcade Fire‘s highly anticipated third album, The Suburbs, leaked today. The Arcade Fire are one of my favourite bands so I was totally psyched for this album. Here are my first impressions (which are subject to change).

It’s good. It’s not a disappointment. The Arcade Fire have not “lost it” or anything along those lines. However, at this point in time, as I write this, I don’t think the album is quite as good as either Funeral or Neon Bible.

Here’s the thing: firstly, there’s far less emphasis on the string section this time around. I mean, do you remember how awesome those violins were on songs like “Laika” or “Neon Bible?” Really awesome! Now they sound so scaled back, lower in the mix. The Arcade Fire was the band that made string sections a big thing in rock! I mean, I can understand wanting to change things up, but those violins were amazing!

The other thing I have a problem with is that Win Butler doesn’t sound as engaged. It’s like he doesn’t have anything to prove anymore. Do you remember listening to “Rebellion (Lies)”? Do you remember the power that was in his voice? I remember an AllMusicGuide review said it was like a lion tamer’s whip that got shorter with each strike. Now it just seems like he’s doing his thing, but that sense of danger and urgency that made him so exciting isn’t there anymore.

That being said, every song on The Suburbs is at least good. Even “Month of May”, which I’d say is the worst Arcade Fire song, is still pretty good. “Ready to Start”, “We Used To Wait”, “Roccoco” and plenty others are great, great songs. Better than most of the music out there these days. Still, they don’t stand out the way “Wake Up” or “Intervention” did. They just do their thing, and they’re great, but it’s not the same.

The Suburbs isn’t The Arcade Fire‘s Forgiveness Rock Record – a highly anticipated album that meets and exceeds expectations; one that sounds like it’s been given the laborious effort over and above what’s required. What it is is a solid collection of songs by great songwriters that doesn’t aim for the heights hit by the two albums that preceded it. However, as I said, this is only my first impression, and it’s likely to change, so check back soon for updates.

Top 50 Canadian Albums Of The Decade, 4-1

December 24th, 2009 | Features | 0 Comments

4. Arcade Fire – Funeral
An obvious game-changer album, Arcade Fire‘s 2004 debut blew up the Montreal music scene, made orchestral rock the music of the moment for…a moment, reintroduced social awareness to indie rock (…ignoring Radiohead, that is…) and was just really, really awesome. On a side-note, it definitely gave Owen Pallett‘s profile a bit of a boost once everyone found out he was playing with the group live and helping out with those insane arrangements. But all that only serves to distract from what a great album Funeral is. It’s an album that many had a hard time getting into (see: me) but once they did, they found something amazing. Win and Regine Butler were writing these amazingly simple and at the same time intricately detailed songs about love, fear, age, politics and technology that could appeal to hard-edged hipsters just as easily as they could to some hipper parents. And it was so big and bright, one would think it would be harder to ignore than to love. Maybe us latecomers just weren’t ready for it, though the rest of the musical world sure was.
3. Wolf Parade – Apologies To Queen Mary


Wolf Parade‘s success was kind of tied to the Arcade Fire‘s back in the day since they were both from Montreal, had shared members in the past, played shows together and were both socially conscious bands. Difference was Wolf Parade was weirder, more paranoid, druggier, definitely less accessible and a lot rougher. And for my money, they made the better album. Apologies... captures perfectly the feeling of the Bush era, of being overwhelmed by a world being increasingly dominated by technology and at a rapid rate; technology that could change our lives for better just as easily as infinitely worse, especially living under something like The Patriot Act. (Shudders). And yet the hope Wolf Parade offered, though meager, was made all the more precious by the apparent futility of everything, as presented in songs like “Shine A Light” and Spencer Krug‘s masterpiece, “I’ll Believe In Anything”. These days, socially conscious music seems to be something of a rarity – maybe everyone’s just happy that Obama’s in office, but go back to this album and just remember that the world isn’t quite all peaches and cream even if the Bush-era is technically over.
2. The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse
One of my favorite albums of all time, The Besnard Lakes are... is, I believe, the modern day Dark Side Of The Moon. It’s an album that requires time, but when given, its eight tracks reward endlessly. This album got it all so right. It’s got orchestration, synths, shoegaze, ambiance, pop, explosive guitar solos, experimentation – everything you could want…except for a hit single. It’s just too grandiose, too big and ambient – but sit back and blast “Devastation” and it will devastate your eardrums with awesomeness; and who else writes music as gentle, haunting and unpredictable as songs like “Because Tonight” or “For Agent 13”. Nobody. That’s who. And it’s got “And You Lied To Me”, which is just an incredible slow-burner. The Besnard Lakes are… is so tight and diverse that it just feels like a classic album.
1. Broken Social Scene – Broken Social Scene
What happens when you take a community of some of the best musicians in Canada and get them to all make an album together under the benevolent leadership of Kevin Drew? You get the best album to come out of Canada in the last ten years. Maybe ever. I don’t know how people could not like this or prefer You Forgot It In People; BSS perfectly straddles the line between experimental freak-out and pop song perfectionism. And it has everything. All kinds of instruments, sounds, styles, voices, ideas: everything. But especially heart. A whole lot of heart. You can’t build songs as majestic as “Ibi Dreams Of Pavement (A Better Day)”, “It’s All Gonna Break” or “Superconnected” without a lot of heart. And though I’m tempted to give a lot of credit for all that heart to Kevin Drew, it’s obvious that this is the sound of an entire scene of songwriters and artists each lending the album something. Whether it’s some gorgeous vocal parts via Feist, Amy Milan and Emily Haines, some kick-ass guitar work from Andrew Whitman, an amazing tour-de-force production job by David Newfeld or just some solid rhythm work from Brendan Canning and Justin Peroff, everyone brought something special to the table to deliver a very special album. This is the sound of an entire social scene, one made up of incredibly talented individuals all working together. The result speaks for itself.

Ten Most Important Albums Of The 00s (to me, at least)

October 7th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

#6. Arcade Fire – Funeral

Obviously a touchstone album of the decade, I remember how I came to like, and then love, Funeral.

At first I really didn’t.

I remember I was at Greenwood in the work out room and I started talking to one of the teachers about music. She asked me if I’d heard about her friend’s band from Montreal, the Arcade Fire, and I said no, I hadn’t yet. And she said, “oh, you will.” Pretty much right after that I saw that Funeral received a glowing four-star review from I checked out a couple songs and…wasn’t really into it. I thought it sounded kind of lame, maybe even emo. I told the teacher that I’d heard about them but wasn’t really into it.

For some reason, a year later I came back to those songs…and really liked them. I downloaded the rest of the album and yeah, I really liked it. I really liked the lyrics also. “Our mother shuuuuuuuuuuuldaaaaaaaa/Just called you laiiiiiikaaaaa/It’s for your own good/It’s for the neighborhood.” How cool did I think it was when I found out Laika was the name of the dog the Russians launched into space with no intention of it ever returning to Earth? Very cool. Or “There’s a fire out/In the heart of man/Take it from your heart/Put it in your hand.” And “Our bodies get bigger but our/Hearts don’t grow up/We’re just a million little gods turning rainstorms/Turning every good thing to rust.” Sorry Kanye, but Win Butler is my nominee for voice of this generation. I think everyone kind of thought that when they heard these songs.

True, Radiohead had already touched on how technology was and is dehumanizing our civilization, but whereas they always sounded so ominous, sophisticated and techno-godly, Arcade Fire sounded uplifting and human. Where Radiohead made amazing music for the head, Arcade Fire made amazing music for the heart.



May 5th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

What makes a song great? What makes some songs greater than others? I’m not 100% sure. It’s tough. Some songs are big, fast and grand. Others have power in their intimacy and understatement. Over the next several days, I will post my picks for the top 25 songs of all time, posting five more each day counting down to the all time greatest song of all time. I only picked one song per artist based on the potency of the lyrics, melody, performance and production. Here’s the first five:

25. The Velvet Underground – “Rock & Roll” (Full Length Version) off Loaded

Lou Reed wrote one hit single, “Walk On The Wild Side”, but this Loaded cut with the VU should have been his other. Three chords, a simple but powerful message, a solid guitar solo and the song is kind of weirdly composed but seems totally perfect. Loaded may be the VU’s worst album, but “Rock & Roll” is probably the band’s single greatest song.


24. TV On The Radio – “Family Tree” off Dear Science,

Three shuddering chords echo across eternity in this stunner about forbidden, star-crossed love. Tunde Adebimpe’s somber delivery performs its part modestly, allowing Sitek’s atmospherics to swarm the soundscape like graveyard fog. When the drum-machine kicks in towards the end carrying the song off like a funeral march, it gets me every time. This ghostly elegy is TV On The Radio’s best yet.


23. The White Stripes – “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground” off White Blood Cells

Detroit poetry for lost love from the always awesome Jack and Meg White. Simple, striking and powerful, this song is The White Stripes at their absolute pure-pop-garage-rock zenith and that desolate, dirty riff is the sound of a star being born.


22. Dinosaur Jr. – “Freak Scene” off Bug

The opening riff just says it all: an anthem for freaks, geeks, and anyone who just doesn’t fit in and can never seem to get what they want. The song is cut up into the main verse part and the parts where J. Mascis goes crazy on his fret-board, churning out gorgeous, screaching melodies like rainbows. The key to this song however, is the sensitivity and naivety in Mascis’ voice and the joyous, searching quality in his noodling.


21. Moby Grape – “Seeing” off Moby Grape ’69

Skip Spence’s last song with the Grape pretty much makes the rest of Moby Grape ’69 seem like the tame thing it is in comparison with this incredible closer. Phantasmogoric guitars shplash around the left and right channels as if they were trying to illustrate the acid-trip scene in Easy Rider in audio format as the song jolts between quiet acoustic bits in between full blown rockouts. In under four minutes, this epic seems to encapsulate what it might feel like to feel your mind being violently whacked off its rocker by schizophrenia and a plethora of hallucinogenics. And then there’s that weird falsetto bit in the middle where it sounds like the angels comes down and just takes Spence’s head off with them for good. Spence’s insanity was no laughing matter and it pretty much decimated the unbound talent of this incredible sage of a man, but it did make for this masterpiece of a song, as well as his classic Oar album.


20. Arcade Fire – “No Cars Go” off Neon Bible

The Neon Bible version is definitely better, hipsters. An enormous epic about dreaming of  a world away from the techno-pression of the modern age, with Owen Pallet’s majestic arrangements elevating this already unbelievable composition to new heights of elation. Strings, organs, synthesizers, and gorgeous harmonies; uplifting and incredible: “No Cars Go” is the Arcade Fire at their best.


British Sea Power

August 5th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

This week’s band of the week is from across the pond. They’re a band with a big anthemic sound that’s moving and majestic and will swing your heartache beautifully. I was listening to them on the pod while marching over to my friend Charlotte’s goodbye-bonfire (I’m not going to see her for a good, long time now cuz she’s on a hitchhiking trip across Canada and by the time she gets back home I’ll be up in Halifax) and it was just fantastic. More on their sound in a bit, this week’s band of the week is…


Hopefully many of you already know BSP but if not, you’re in luck, cuz once you listen to them they’ll blow your brains out of your bumholio. These brits released their first album, The Decline of British Sea Power, in 2003 to wide acclaim but not much press over in North America. A shame, because they were totally ahead of their time, playing anthemic indie rock before The Arcade Fire got huge. The first album displayed a love of the Pixies, Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine and it’s first half is more spastic and Frank Black-esque with the second half containing the more drifting, pretty songs like “Carrion” and “Fear of Drowning”. Their second and third albums (2005’s Open Season and 2008’s Do You Like Rock Music?) left behind most of the Pixies influence, with Open Season focusing more on prettier, softer songs and DYLRM basically blatantly attempting to out-anthem The Arcade Fire.

Many of the band’s lyrics are poetic meditations on life and politics. Allusions to water and escaping to the peace of the ocean are quite common as well. Then again, some songs like “No Lucifer” off DYLRM are just random words thrown together with no particular meaning. Regardless, you probably won’t pay much attention to the lyrics other than the one’s that really jump out like “The salt, the spray, the gorgeous undertow/Always, always, always the sea/Brilliantine mortality” in “Carrion” or “Oh it left my heart broken/ It took my breath away/ A lesson open/ A little more each day/ A little eyesore/ A little Nytol/ A little heartache/ A little soothe-all,” in “To Get To Sleep”.

Listen, find someway to hear these albums because they’re huge and beautiful. Get them onto your ipod and go for a run and you’ll feel like the seraphim are uplifting you unto a land of glory. Don’t pay attention to the title of the first album, there’s no decline here, BSP has power to spare.