On their third trip to the studio to make the perfect indie album, Arcade Fire emerge with a gem in hand. The Suburbs achieves, as the name would suggest, a sense of calm and comfort that can make you feel at home. Instantly catchy with its opening title track, “The Suburbs,” the band throws a variety of instruments into the mix, including a catchy old school bar ditty pounded to perfection on the piano, as Win Butler pours his heart out onto memory lane. “Ready to Start” keeps the atmospheric music pumping, as drums break through the foggy layers of instruments to inject a sense of urgency into the tune.
“Modern Man,” despite the name, borrows a bit from the eighties with its muted guitars and light as air vocals. The tune is more straight and narrow then some of Arcade Fire’s more fringe tunes that have put them on the map. At first, clean up track “Rococo” strips away some of the thick layers of instruments that permeate many of Arcade Fire’s other tracks, but slowly builds them back in as the song progresses, creating a morphing effect about halfway through the song, wherein you may start off being lulled to bed and end up feeling wide awake, head nodding, feet tapping.
“Empty Room” uses hyped up strings to set the stage for what could easily be a ballroom dance, but ends up being one of the heavier rock songs on the album, and the first to prominently feature the vocals of Régine Chassagne, the other half of the husband and wife duo that fronts the band. Butler takes the reins again on “City With No Children,” before the two find their equilibrium on “Half Light I,” a laid back duet that could easily find its way onto a soundtrack and “Half Light II (No Celebration)" where their words become like synchronized swimmers, moving in unison.
Changing gears back into coffeeshop-friendly territory, “Suburban War,” sounds less like war and more like peace, but then the suburbs have a way of making even the smallest confrontations feel like war, don't they? Like a manic depressive, jumping from lows to highs with little warning, “Month of May” injects some life back into the party, with grungy guitar and urgent vocals before crashing back down with “Wasted Hours,” which, if you just spent the last hour listening to this album, you will enjoy, but not relate to.
“Deep Blue” reverberates with heart and feels like an authentic exploration into the musical mind of Arcade Fire, despite their constantly evolving sound, they seem to have nailed down a piece here that sets them apart. “We Used to Wait” resurfaces some of the eighties influence from earlier and infuses it with a modern twist. Trying the two part angle once again, “Sprawl I (Flatland)” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” couldn’t be more apart, the first playing low and slow while the second plays high and… electronic? Arcade Fire seems determined to prove that in this suburb no style is off limits.
David Byrne / The Arcade Fire - Live - June 26, 2005
Bell Orchestre - Interview
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