The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

I bought this mostly because the Grammy Awards were coming up. Plus, it was only $7.99 on iTunes. That seems less expensive than usual, especially for 16 songs with decent lengths. And finally, they’re Canadian, like The RAA. So it had a lot of things going for it.

I’m not quite sure why the last two full albums I’ve purchased are by primarily Canadian bands with similar themes. With titles like Hometowns and The Suburbs I could be convinced that ruminating about urban, suburban, and prairie landscapes in a melancholic manner is common amongst our northern neighbors. I joke, there are plenty of differences between these two groups. Namely, while The RAA is only three people, Arcade Fire has at least seven people and they throw in a wider range of stringed instruments and keyboards. And while my feeble brain classifies both groups in the rock/alt-rock genre, many critics give Arcade Fire the further classification of art-rock.

I’m on board with that art-rock thing. If you saw Month of May and Ready to Start at the Grammy Awards you probably noticed the multiple drummers, varied background vocals, violins, and a bullhorn. Lotta stuff going on. Both tracks are loud and fast-paced, more so, I think, than most of the other 14 songs on the album. Ready to Start is their hit and it’s a great tune.

The title track, The Suburbs, is filled with a lot of teen angst, especially if you pair it with the video. Seems like Spike Jonze collaborated on the video or just made it and used their music. Not sure. But for the lyrics, this isn’t a bad song. I say so because I’m a little past lyrics with angst; I much prefer anger. But I like the clear vocals and the keyboards and the chorus.

There are a couple songs with primarily female vocals that are good. Empty Room is a short song that has a short, repetitive, male/female duet (mostly female). Sprawl II is the longest song with an 80s pop-style (Blondie-ish) feel and a little electronica tossed in.

Also with an 80s feel, but more rock-like, is City With No Children, which has some heavy background guitar and a mellow male lead. Modern Man has the same type of mellow male lead vocals. Is that even a music description? Regardless, they’re both good songs and don’t feel very alternative.

They seem to mix up the genres a lot. There is one song, Suburban War, that starts out with a 70s style guitar riff that stays there for the first third. Then it transitions into more standard, modern alt-rock, then back again. It’s really cool.

I like the album. I’ll listen to it a lot this year I think. It’s big, 16 big songs, with a lot of variability in style and a bunch of different instruments. I’ve talked myself into liking this album for more reasons than one. It makes sense that they rocked the Grammy Awards. Fire up!