Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Music - but not mine

Before I start, I'd like to say thanks to the people who actually read my blog and agitated for me to write in it again.  The fountain of wisdom that is xkcd suggests that only really boring people apologise for not posting more in their blogs... so I won't!  However, I will make what will be a pretty common excuse in the coming months - along with working, I've been very very busy with trying to get my PhD finished.  My current plan is to get it done by August - it's ambitious but it may actually be feasible.

I thought this time that I'd write about music other than my own.  For someone who professes to be a musician I really don't listen to a lot of other people's music, Powderfinger notwithstanding*.  When I do listen to music, I am strange in that I like to listen to a single album at a time - sometimes for days or weeks, constantly, while I work.  I've never really gotten into the listening to mp3s thing - I really enjoy listening to an album played in order (or sometimes on shuffle if I'm feeling adventurous) as the artists intended.  Lately I've had the chance to do this with a few different artists, so here goes...

My very musical friend Dave gave me an album for being a groomsman at his wedding.  That album was Arcade Fire's Neon Bible.

To be brutally honest, I was a little cynical after the first listen or two.  The last offering that Dave had bought for me as a present was some of Sufjan Steven's more experimental work, and other than a couple of standout tracks I found it a little too experimental for my tastes - so I was preparing myself for the worst with this new unknown offering.

But, to their credit, Arcade Fire's album really grew on me.  A lot of good music does this for me, but because of my preconceptions I wasn't really expecting this to - I would never have fallen in love with this album if I hadn't had a couple more listens to give it one last chance to impress me.  I recognised a couple of  songs from the radio - Black Mirror and No Cars Go, which I really enjoyed from the start - but over time, I grew to love many of their album tracks** even more.  Particular standouts are Black Wave/Bad Vibrations and Ocean of Noise - these were stuck in my head for weeks!  There aren't really any tracks I could count as "misses" - they're all tight and well thought out, and even at their worst provide enjoyable background music.  I might accuse the title track Neon Bible of being unmemorable; but then, it's part of a long tradition of unmemorable title tracks.

I love good emotive vocals and the lead singer Win Butler really delivers, particularly in the lesser-known tracks.  I'm not-so-much taken with the backing vocals of Régine Chassagne - on their own - but the harmonies between her and Win are for the most part amazing!  I tend to concentrate most on the vocals (in terms of both lyrics and melody) in terms of music I like, and to this end Neon Bible is a winner for me also: the instrumentation and various sound effects scattered throughout the album are always interesting, always tight and very nicely complement the vocal work.  I know (from listening to the album as I type) that there are a multitude of really nice hooks played by the keyboards and guitar in particular, but I wouldn't be able to remember most of them - they fit so seamlessly into the story the voices tell.

Anyway, I think I've ranted enough about this album.  Tell me your thoughts on this album if you've listened to it, and I'd be particularly interested to hear peoples' opinions of the other Arcade Fire albums.  Is this as good as they get?  Or am I really missing out if I don't give the other albums a try also?

* I've been avoiding writing a full-blown critique of all seven of their albums lest my fanboyish gushing send you all to sleep!
** I usually call them "B-sides" but my girlfriend scolds me for it...


  1. Haven't listened to it, but I assume your opinions are correct, you God you.

    And lol at xkcd ;)

  2. Their first album 'Funeral' is definitely worth a listen. The lyrics aren't quite as good (Although there are some real gems), and Win's vocals, to be honest, could be a lot better, but it's still very good for a debut album. Having listened to and enjoyed 'Neon Bible' this much, I reckon you could enjoy 'Funeral' quite a lot more than if you had listened to it first.
    'The Suburbs' (Their third) is an absolutely fantastic album. In many ways, it's like the follow up album for 'Funeral'. Where 'Funeral' is somewhat dark and depressing, with the undercurrent themes of needing to escape, 'The Suburbs' is like returning back to that same neighborhood 10 years later to find all the good things from being there, the fleeting childhood memories.
    Win's vocals have improved again (As have Régine's), and their tendency to make grand statements has not diminished. Definitely well worth the listen.

  3. I'm going to have to have a listen to it I think. So many people rave about it, but the radio friendly songs just never grabbed me enough for me to want to make the effort...

    Andrew S.

  4. Definitely do! Like a lot of stuff I like, I enjoyed many of the album tracks much more than the singles.

  5. The month is almost over and still no blog! Will be a first