Tag: Arcade Fire

Everything Now – Arcade Fire

Oh the peculiarity in stature, aura, and idiosyncrasy. Is it a paradox? Or is it the tantalizing mystique that sets it aside from the majority of releases to hit the streets in 2017? Why would one of the greatest indie acts of the past decade release such an enigmatic record that has its core fan base wondering what’s it’s chewing on? And rightfully so. Chew away.

In fact, since they are one of the few starlit acts to break the scene since 2004’s jaw-dropping “Funeral” is exactly why this new release isn’t “Funeral.” It’s nothing like any other release from the group, and it’s a statement. No, you’re right, it’s definitely nothing like “Funeral” “or “Neon Bible” or “The Suburbs”. It’s a statement of nothing less than progression; a note in the annals that says, ‘Here’s where the group’s been, this is what we’ve done, and this is what we have to say… now.

With the great James Murphy (see LCD Soundsystem) behind the production helm, the 2013 release of “Reflektor” brought a hint of changing winds for the group. Win Butler and co. branched out and dipped their fingers into genres that weren’t necessarily, oh how do you say, characteristic? Yes, that’s the word (see LCD Soundsystem). Fast forward a few years, tag along some uncharacteristic ventures, enlist the greats of Thomas Bangalter from Daft Punk, Steve Mackey of Pulp, and Geoff Barrow of Portishead and you get something a little more characteristic. Sure, Everything Now is certainly not of the earth-shattering, physics-defying, mammoth of a release like its predecessors, and its progressive nature undoubtedly highlights that assertion. But does that discredit its intrinsic value?

Let’s break it down, shall we? The title track is undoubtedly on par with the “Arcade Fire” sound. The harmony is characteristically French in nature, there are little-to-no electronic aspects, and hell, it’s even driven by the strum of acoustic guitar. So, how’s that for characteristic? Moving on… The next point that needs to be made is the change in scenery the band went through over the years leading up to making this record. Bands do this for a number of reasons of which we won’t get into other than to primarily revel in the atmosphere that translates into sound (see “Here Comes the Night Time” from Reflektor). Now, this isn’t a down and dirty, chicken grease, or stand-up-and-slap-your-grand-pappy kind of funk record, but New Orleans is historically renown as a melting pot of genres. Taking all this in stride, songs like “Peter Pan” and “Chemistry” start making a lot more sense. Take the history and progression of the band in strides, and Everything Now starts making a lot more sense. See?

The verdict?

It shines in certain areas moreover others. “Infinite Content” is probably one that could use a buff (or maybe some attention?), but it’s not a ball and chain for the whole album. In fact, “Infinite_Content” sounds a lot like that Arcade Fire core, doesn’t it? The bottom line is this isn’t like any previous Arcade Fire releases. It’s a new(ish) sound, the imagery and packaging are aligned as well, and it’s a bit of a stepping-out for the group. Does that discredit the intrinsic value? Decide for yourself.

It sound like…

Arcade Fire came out with a new record that’s their first attempt at making a fun album. They added a pinch of party to where they left off on Reflektor, and the result sounds very different from 2004’s Funeral.

American Dream – LCD Soundsystem

The release that brought the band back. There’s something so tantalizingly romantic about the narrative that enshrouds the rise and fall and rise again of LCD Soundsystem. In limelight, there’s something about solely the rise and fall that debilitates the psyche into a weird Shakespearian-like trance, yet here they are after years of crossed fingers and dreaming the teases and reunion rumors were true. Is it also the dance music and computerized bleeps and bloops sci-fi layer rising to the top that makes the narrative so classical? Or perhaps the suit and tie and escapist lyrics that thicken the plot? With suit and tie front and center, LCD certainly caters heavy doses of both bleeps and bloops and escapist lyrics on American Dream as much as any previous release. Only this time, the bands back for good, and they’re also serving up a few Alternative-esque numbers while jogging your memory as to why they started from the get go.

LCD has always incorporated a slew of instrumental characters (check out “Freak Out/Starry Eyes” or “Sound of Silver” if you’re unfamiliar), but never have they arranged and layered in such an intricate and subtly dynamic manner. Now one thing that needs mentioning is James Murphy’s affinity for dynamics and the rise and fall in song composition. His master blueprint and main ingredient is layering with instrumentation as the song builds. Evident across the many shades and genres the group transcends, it may be some trashcan 80’s synth and drums tracks (see “One Touch”) sci-fi bleeps and bloops (see “I Can Change”), or blaring bass and guitar (“Daft Punk is Playing at My House”) that transitions into a full-fledged cowbell and percussion jam. Or, more recently, the subtle horn arrangement on Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor” that fits oh-so-perfectly with Bowie’s vocals as the song comes to a close. It’s an intriguing and drastically diverse playing field, and American Dream pushes the needle further for the perfect moment busting out the bells and whistles (or cowbell) when the song begs for it.

American Dream does take on different shapes and figures that span the group’s technical ability, and Alternative (sounding?) songs are certainly prevalent among the notable core characters. Take the hit single “call the police” as a testament to staying true to the course while exploring other nooks and crannies. Most LCD-listening folk would say this is an entirely different band, but it fits so well in the concoction because of its ornate disposition. In fact, it masterfully blends itself amongst other uncharacteristic numbers like “emotional haircut”, where the song breakouts into a Nirvana-like vamp from its atypical head-bob and electro-ish kickoff. It’s almost as if the original cast of members are all the same and speaking the same language, just in a different dialect with new sayings. Yet, for a group to seem so displaced in hindsight, they managed to release a very classic album. From backtrack guitar parts and solos (“other voices”) to raw drum tracks and prophetic lyrics of yearning and lost love, American Dream never shies from keeping the R2D2-like and synth marimba breakdowns modules in tow.

The verdict?

An unparalleled and pinnacle release from a group of the finest in business. It’s perfectly clear the creative juices were stewing and brewing (perhaps festering?) for quite some time inside the carnival of James Murphy’s mind (link to post), and rather than releasing a solo effort or under a different moniker, he “got the band back together.” What separates American Dream as a sheer exertion of singular creativity is what makes Murphy and the group particular in nature: an endless range of noises and instruments grounded with composition. And American Dream broadens the horizon and incorporates a few new hints and undertones, specifically alternative-rooted songs, that also fit nicely in the “band” environment. What truly makes American Dream special and monumental isn’t solely because of it’s dramatic and Shakespearian backstory, it’s their best release to date and it displays raw talent like none other. It’s a classic release for the group that keeps the listener yearning for more and more as the album comes to a close, and that is most likely what you’ll get. In due time, of course.