Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

17 06 2011

Listened: Friday May 6

I’m ashamed to admit the Suburbs got lost in my listening project. It was released in August of last year; by then I was already deep in the project, and therefore barely listened to it. Even after they won the Album of  the Year Grammy, I still was slacking. It took seeing their mind-blowing performance at Coachella 2011 to kick my butt into paying attention.

The Suburbs is a fabulous album that really speaks to where I am right now. “Businessmen drinking my blood, just like the kids in art school said they would” strikes to the core of my being, as does “You never trust a millionaire quoting the sermon on the mount. I used to think I was not like them but I’m beginning to have my doubts.” The entire mournful, nostalgic, Luddite tone of We Used To Wait blows my mind every time I hear it.

Not only are the lyrics amazing, the music is very impressive. Some songs sound very influenced by 60s pop, others perfectly weave in 80s keyboard touches and flourishes like it’s no big thing. The fabulous mixture of Win’s and Regine’s singing is dead on, as usual.

To be honest, before I heard this, I didn’t believe Arcade Fire could keep their finger on the pulse as well as they so totally have. For shame, for shame.

Joy Division – Substance

17 06 2011

Listened: Friday May 6

I’m not sure it’s necessary to include Substance in the project, since Heart and Soul pretty much covers its contents. I had this album long before I had my Joy Division awakening, and hadn’t listened to it much. Anyway, it does a pretty good job of giving a Joy Division newbie a glimpse of their progression from a down and dirty punk band influenced by the Sex Pistols to a better produced band making real art.

The Swell Season – Strict Joy

17 06 2011

Listened: Monday May 2

I was totally bummed to find out that Glen and Marketa from the Swell Season, who became a couple during Once, broke up. However, they got a hell of a beautiful breakup album out of it in Strict Joy.

Lyrics like “I wanna sit you down and talk. I wanna pull back the veils and find out what it is I’ve done wrong. I wanna tear these curtains down, I want you to meet me somewhere tonight in this old tourist town… I wanna drink with you all night till we both fall down” communicate that strain very well. The cover art is also brilliant.

Lest you get the idea it’s all struggle and sad-sack here, there are peppy songs like “Feeling the Pull” and beautiful love songs like “In These Arms” as well. It’s a well-done album all around.

I was lucky to see Glen and Marketa perform some of these songs at an intimate KFOG studios show. At their show the year before, they had walked right by Woody, who was waiting outside the Grand Ballroom for me to arrive, and then they tried to walk in the front door, but security didn’t even know they were the performing musicians until they pulled out their passes. I was sorry I missed this amusing event. Before the KFOG show (which I attended alone) I entertained a momentary fantasy that the same thing would happen this time. It was one of those cinematically perfect moments – with no attempt to manufacture it, I walked right by them as they went into the building. Glen was softly singing to himself just as one would imagine he would be, and I gave them a big grin. I love it when that kind of stuff happens.