Tag Archives: sprawl II (mountains beyond mountains)

top ten albums of 2010

by Gordon

 

10. CONGRATULATIONS by mgmt

 

Flash Delirium [LISTEN]

While not as altogether catchy as their breakthrough Oracular Spectacular, it’s every bit as weird, and ultimately, as daring. Though a letdown on certain levels, you have to give it to the band for their genre-bending approach.

FULL REVIEW

 

9. INFINITE ARMS by band of horses

On My Way Back Home [LISTEN]

It doesn’t knock you out on first listen. Infinite Arms grows on you, reminding you of what makes Band of Horses a great band, be it the soaring vocals of Ben Bridwell, their undeniable melodies, or, less tangibly, the subtle way the music takes you to a quiet place just between childhood and last night.

FULL REVIEW

 

8. ODD BLOOD by yeasayer

O.N.E. [LISTEN]

Part Animal Collective, part Of Montreal, brand new and yet somehow reminiscent of an era that’s passed, it’s all come to be what is unmistakably Yeasayer, and I welcomed a heavy dose this year.

FULL REVIEW

 

7. THIS IS HAPPENING by lcd soundsystem

I Can Change [LISTEN]

This universally acclaimed third and purportedly final album from Murphy serves as an upbeat celebration of the end of a decade, while still encapsulating the sometimes introverted thoughtfulness that’s stood out in the artist’s previous work as well. Let’s hope he has more to say in the years to come.

FULL REVIEW

 

6. CONTRA by vampire weekend

Giving Up The Gun [LISTEN]

Proving that the earlier success of these four young New York City lads was no fluke, Contra serves up another dose of of African pop-meets-Western culture, but this time with even more boldness and purpose in direction.

FULL REVIEW

 

5. THE AGE OF ADZ by sufjan stevens

I Walked [LISTEN]

Do I wish Stevens, who for almost a decade has remained one of the most inspiring and sometimes life-changing artists for my generation, had combined the best of Adz and his recent EP All Delighted People to create an even better new release? Yes. But Adz is still undeniably an amazing record, grander in scale, scope and sound than anything yet from the quiet young Michigan native with a banjo.

4. GO by jónsi

Boy Lilikoi [LISTEN]

It’s Sigur Rós on Four Loko. With tighter compositions, fuller soundscapes, and just as much imagination as ever, you  need only close your eyes and imagine the other members to ease out of the feeling you’re committing adultery.

FULL REVIEW

 

3. TEEN DREAM by beach house

Walk In The Park [LISTEN]

It’s hard to believe how simple a song can be, or a band for that matter, and still make music magic. Amidst a broad pallette of pace and emotion, Legrand’s vocals leave the strongest aftertaste…soulful, confident, and even in a pop context, always a bit haunting.

FULL REVIEW

 

2. HIGH VIOLET by the national

Afraid Of Everyone [LISTEN]

It’s hard not giving this one the top spot. This is the third consecutive album from the band to be music gold, their instrumental style and lyrical intricasies too complex to merely describe on pen and paper. Singer Matt Berninger and the rest of The National continue to fill a void in contemporary music and culture, one that most of us, sadly, wouldn’t have even known even existed.

FULL REVIEW

 

1. THE SUBURBS by arcade fire

We Used To Wait [LISTEN]

I’m not surpised Arcade Fire would put out the best album of any year. I’m just surprised there’s a band as consistently good as Arcade Fire. Not every song may do it for you. When do they all? But the album’s strength is in its cohesive theme of the modern day, good and bad. And for modern music, it’s simply great.

FULL REVIEW

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THE SUBURBS by arcade fire

by Gordon

 

Pitchfork: 8.6          Rolling Stone: 4/5          Metacritic: 86          Spin: 4.5/5

 

Released: August 2010
Tracklisting:
  1. The Suburbs
  2. Ready to Start
  3. Modern Man
  4. Rococo
  5. Empty Room
  6. City With No Children
  7. Half Light I
  8. Half Light II (No Celebration)
  9. Suburban War
  10. Month of May
  11. Wasted Hours
  12. Deep Blue
  13. We Used to Wait [LISTEN]

  14. Sprawl (Flatland)
  15. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
  16. The Suburbs (Continued)

   A little premature to be giving a grade to a brand new album by one of the most significant bands to grace my generation? Absolutely. Have I figured out how influential these songs will be on me over the course of my life? Not at all. A little too hard to wait to put a good word in? Yup.

   It’s too easy to say and too hard not to say it: “They’ve done it again.” Meaning: They’ve made another Arcade Fire album. They’ve done so little wrong and so much right over their celebrated lifespan that putting it so simply really is all one needs to say, or know. While at least as different from its predecessors as Neon Bible was from Funeral, it still possesses that inescapable air that seems to bind all of their work into the nice, familiar musical gift it is.

   Though taking a stab at more than a handful of previously un-tinkered-with sounds and instruments, they’ve somehow managed to infuse it all with that same dark yet curiously happy mix of Arcade Fire energy, their themed frustrations this time directed, not surprisingly, at the cold, mediocrity-inspiring lifestyles and landscapes of your everyday everyman suburbs. Theirs…and ours.

   Setting the mood and point at the start with the album’s title track, “The Suburbs” begins with a rollicking piano romp whose playfulness, when one considers the lyrically grave implications confessed by Butler, come off as near sarcastic, especially when coupled with the haunting and more tonally honest string accompaniment. “You always seemed so sure/ That one day we’d be fighting/ In a suburban war/ Your part of town against mine/ I saw you standing on the opposite shore/ But by the time the first bombs fell/ We were already bored.”

   “Modern Man” takes a significant turn from the everyday Arcade Fire with a late-80s vibe that includes a steady electric guitar rhythm and some unique spacey distractions throughout, Butler lamenting, “So I wait in line, I’m a modern man/ And the people behind me, they can’t understand/ Makes me feel like something don’t feel right.” “Rococo” instantly took me to old feelings first felt by first impressions of the band…a relatively simple chord progression that’s initially driven by aggressively-strummed acoustic guitar and deep, reverberating bass and strings, until exploding into an instrumental melee of noise, emotion, and distortion, with just the right amount of each.

   “We Used to Wait” is a true gem, call me a sucker for your repetitive, choppy piano backbone. The chords, at once that perfect aforementioned mix of dark and happy, make the song, especially when aided with a catchy synth-bassline and eventually, a string crescendo reminiscent of the epic climax to Neon Bible’s “Windowsill.”

   And “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” at first listen was quick to become my favorite Régine Chassagne-sung track spanning the band’s career. Sounding vaguely at times like Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, it’s also clearly the band’s danciest tune to date as well, Chassagne’s vocals matching just right in both pitch and attitude. Though it wouldn’t have had any agreeable place on their previous two records, it somehow feels right at home in The Suburbs, and a feel-good closer that makes it harder to think sore thoughts for this most recent endeavor. Like the album’s opener, the upbeat positivity screams a far cry from the truth that they sing: “Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small/ That we can never get away from the sprawl/ Living in the sprawl/ Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains/ And there’s no end in sight/ I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights.”

   Boasting 16 tracks, I feared from the get go that they might have gone for quantity over quality on this one. Yeah, the album is perhaps without any truly timeless band classics like Funeral’s “Rebellion (Lies)” or Neon Bible’s “No Cars Go”. And yeah, it also boasts a few less-than-satisfying pieces, like “Month of May”, for example, which I’d swear was The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” everytime it starts (nothing against that classic). But they’ve provided us with a [normal] Arcade Fire album’s worth of enjoyment that should easily keep us going for the next few years until they’re ready to do it all over again. With The Suburbs, Arcade Fire has wrestled with and ultimately won the battle over mediocrity: by kicking its ass.

   Advert for their upcoming Madison Square Garden gig (webcast to be directed by Terry Gilliam):

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