“I’ve been learning to drive my whole life.”

“In The Backseat” by Arcade Fire | This song came on the radio yesterday. Well, specifically, a cover of it. We’ve been stuck in traffic for two hours; I didn’t know of road works and found myself driving to dinner for three hours while Shalla attempted to sleep. (She was right. We should’ve gone to EDSA.) There’s a starkness to the imagery of this song, even if it goes sprawling at the end, as Arcade Fire are wont to do. Regine Chassagne wrote upon the death of her mother; this appeared on their breakthrough record Funeral. Tonight – well, last night; I write this on Sunday night – we go to a wake. The father of our friend (and this blog’s) Ellia passed away overnight, and now, hearing this song in the middle of a traffic jam, hits just closer to home. [NB]

Review: Everything Now by Arcade Fire

Everything Now by Arcade FireSomething must have happened along the way to Everything Now, the fifth album from Arcade Fire. It used to be – especially in recent years – that a new release from the group is greeted with such deserved hype: carefully-modulated preludes followed by songs that feel compelling nonetheless, with the album still managing to deliver on the set premises. This time, all people have had to say is “it sounds like Abba!” Not that it’s a bad thing – Everything Now manages to transcend that initial label, offering a melange of its carnival-inspired sounds, one it deployed very well on Reflektor, with some added synths underneath.  Make that a reliance on that – it feels like a disco. But this time it all feels amiss. The record feels inconsequential. Is it because of the themes of constant bombardment? Is it because the songs actually feel like a surrender to that constant bombardment? Is that the point? Is Arcade Fire droning on about consumerism in these times the whole point? Are we missing something? I don’t know for sure. There were some interesting approaches – the duality, for instance; how one half of the album mirrors the other – but ultimately it feels dull. Were we looking towards Arcade Fire to speak up against it, to rally for our side? We all feel surrounded and we can take all the heroes we can get – not a surrender. It’s just par for these challenging times. Instead we got an album that surprisingly feels tone-deaf. [NB]2/5

The inventory: David Bowie in collaborations

It’s incredibly hard to summarize David Bowie’s career. He’s done a lot of things: 25 albums, several films, everything else in between… the man’s a restless soul, always looking for something to pour his energies into, something he’s done up until his last days, as he produced Blackstar while fighting cancer. So, where to begin, exactly? We won’t exactly have the time to dig deep into Bowie’s many personas and phases, so we’ll spin things a bit and look at his collaborations – or at least some of them; again, we can’t quite cover everything – in this installment of the Inventory. [NB]

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Review: Reflektor by Arcade Fire

Reflektor by Arcade FireWe intended to make a short record, and we ended up with eighteen songs that were all between six and eight minutes, and we were like, ‘Uh oh, I think we screwed up making a short record.'” Win Butler’s take on the recording of Arcade Fire’s fourth (double-)album Reflektor says everything you need to know about the record. Inspired by the festival sounds of Haiti and, maybe, a hint here and there of Jamaica’s sound systems, Reflektor is festive, and jubilant, defying the inherent cynicism of its songs – more riffs on isolation and uncertainty that we’ve seen from their last three albums. Thing is, it’s just too long. And far too self-indulgent. Arcade Fire, of course, does epic well (that’s what got Funeral to Best Album Ever status) and while there are some brilliant moments – “We Exist”, “Afterlife” and the title track all share a euphoric slow build you actually want to see through – the record generally overstays its welcome. James Murphy’s fizzy production may have helped give the songs some sparkle, but whatever Arcade Fire was trying to say with Reflektor, it all gets washed away. It really needs some editing, some refining, maybe some rethinking. [NB] | 3/5