Monday, January 3, 2011

Arcade Fire: A Different Perspective

So before I start, let me just say that I really love Arcade Fire's sound.  I thought Funeral was an incredible album (even bought and framed the vinyl).  And while I didn't like Neon Bible nearly as much, I still totally dig their musical aesthetic.  Now, that said, their 2010 album The Suburbs is being generally lauded as one of the top albums of the year on many different lists, and I don't disagree.  Here's the first track for anyone unfamiliar with it:

Musically, the album is tight, well-constructed, with great layering and effects, and songs that are more poppy without losing that disenchanted ennui that the group does so well.  The rhythms are strong and more complex.  Overall, it is an album that should speak to me instantly, but I was frustrated the first few listens because it just wasn't doing something it for me.  I could pick it apart consciously and say, "Oh that was cool" or "What a great touch there" but overall the album was falling flat for me on the more subconscious, gut-feeling kind of level.  I finally realized that from my personal synesthetic point of view the entire album, with a few brief exceptions (the opening of Empty Room for example), was all the same color, with the same visual textures.  It's very blue, with black sprinkled throughout, almost like the static or snow on a television channel that's gone out.  And that's it.

The leaves of this tree are a perfect example of what I see, though I feel these earrings and the sweater also capture it remarkably well.

Free US Shipping - Winter Blues by Bryan Dubreuiel - Original Painting - Tree - 24 by 18  Midnight static Lampwork earrings  Turquoise blue and black marled sweater, Timber Trail, large, mens - Vintage clothing by KitschWear on Etsy
Winter Blues original painting by Bryan Dubreuiel $129
Midnight Static Lamp Earrings by dkjewels $28
Vintage blue and black sweater from kitsch wear $26

Like I said before, there are a few exceptions when the visuals change, but they are fleeting and return to the blue static after only a few seconds.  The very beginning of Empty Room is one example.  The opening effect gives off a shocking yellow, like lightning, but immediately returns to the blue static at about 0:06.

Storm Clouds in Yellow acrylic on fiberboard 5 inches x 8 inches  Vintage 80s cheerleader gold and purple short-sleeved sweater
Storm Clouds in Yellow acrylic on fiberboard by Horsefeather Nuggets $7.50
1980s cheerleader gold and purple sweater from Daughter of the River $16

Half Light I is another track that differs slightly.  Each time the layered strings do their overlapping descending scale (like at about 2:13) it's almost as if the blue static blends together for a second and then droops like a wax figure melting.  As soon as the scale stops, though, the blue static again returns.

Color Melt III Petite Abstract free shipping in US  Melting Wall Clock, Made to Order  Vintage 1960s David Crystal - Aqua Blue SPLATTER Paint - Truly UNIQUE Cocktail Dress - Size LARGE - FREE SHIPPING
Color Melt III petite abstract by masieycakes $22
Melting wall clock by Pragmatic Effects $50
1960s David Crystal cocktail dress from Concetta's Closet $140

I think this consistent blue visual scheme speaks strongly to how cohesive the album is.  I've never had an entire album, with the exception of maybe a Phillip Glass recording, remain so static.  I think because my synesthesia is related to timbres, and the album has a very filtered, echoing quality throughout, that it almost masks the timbres of the individual instruments and voices that would usually create the mixture and shifts of colors and shapes.  So you won't hear me argue that this is not a great album, but just understand that for me, it falls flat.  Though the album has a great flow and development and the tracks are very distinctive, for me visually it is unchanging and therefore lacks that bit of drama that makes art interesting.

Arcade Fire at Lollapalooza 2010
AP Photo/John Smierack

As the frontman for Arcade Fire, a band that has become increasingly outspoken and with a reputation for being less than kind, Win Butler's pseudo-militant look is quite appropriate.  The entire band's look is what can only be described as eclectic, but they all share a preference for muted colors (black being very common) and heavy boots.  Butler's look has remained the most consistent in performances over the past few months, and I think has great potential for men and women alike to give their wardrobe some edge.

60s Short Sleeve Men's U.S. Marines Khaki Shirt Pretty Birdie's Military Jacket (hemp and organic cotton)  Vintage grunge granny military army COMBAT boot womens black lace up 8.5 A N
1960s Men's U.S. Marines khaki shirt from Naggy $10
Pretty Birdie's hemp and organic cotton military jacket by Stephanie Teague $295
Vintage combat boots from Granny Vintage Shoes $60


  1. very, very cool! Did you see the Arcade Fire video for Neighborhood where they used Google maps to locate your hometown and include it in the video? So cool! You must look it up.

    Dreaming of Palm Trees

  2. I hadn't seen that! Very cool! For anyone else interested, check out this link to see the video featuring your town:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...