Tag Archives: Merge

The Arcade Fire – Funeral

The Arcade FireFuneral (Merge)

As Mike Skinner has so brilliantly captured on A Grand Don’t Come for Free, life is composed of a series of singular seemingly inconsequential moments. It’s these sequences of events and minutiae that come to not just encompass but define our lives—it’s a mistake that the “big ones” are the things that differentiate our existences from one another, in general we all suffer and enjoy the same major base of occurrences (death, marriage, parenthood, etc). It’s obvious these events change our lives; but who can underrate the million beautiful sunsets, migraines, and side-splitting laughs we have along the way?

Well, sometimes (as in the case of Skinner, and many others of us), we’re actually so immersed in the individual moments in time that the big ones knock us on our ass—recovery is all that matters afterwards. The Arcade Fire have turned this sort of surprise into the type of album that lives forever in the minds of anyone who hears it. Funeral is a lament of mortality and the hand that takes said precious commodity from us. Its value lies in its ability to sweep across epic and elegant arrangements, to manage so many different faces that the only descriptors applicable regard its effect on whomever it graces, not just the genres and styles the album slides across.

Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, the husband-wife duo that comprise The Arcade Fire, dealt with their tragedies by creating the type of cathartic release that cleans the soul. And, as is usually the case when dealing with death, along the way the group approach the shackles and day-in-day-outisms of life—quickly moving through the arrested hope and free optimism of childhood into the regret and lost yearning that comes with age during the album’s wonderful “Neighborhood” suite. It seems the duo felt they should take the opportunity of the mournful Funeral as an indulgence to cleanse themselves and start anew.

The album sounds conflicted—there is an obvious passion and fire, pure energy bubbling akin to Trail of Dead’s Source Tags and Codes. But whereas the latter would release such energy with violent fury, The Arcade Fire tempers its release with nervous restraint.

Funeral, like the existence it mirrors, is a sequence of moments. The album’s best, a knife that cuts through the center of the agony of “Une Anne Sans Lumiere” and releases a frantic display of physical, epiphanic glory, is the perfect microcosm for Funeral itself—our own personal salvations lie within, sometimes it takes the moving of mountains in one’s life to realize it. Luckily, for those of us fortunate enough to not have to deal with such pain, Funeral contains enough power and affirmation to help us move them ourselves.

MP3 of “Wake Up” via Insound.

Old Enough To Know Better: 15 Years of Merge

Various – Old Enough To Know Better: 15 Years of Merge (Merge)

As if North Carolina based Merge Records hasn’t done enough for its fans over the last 15 years. It has released albums from Superchunk, Spoon, Destroyer and Neutral Milk Hotel. Now it drops a 3-disc compilation on us, Old Enough To Know Better! The first two come loaded with Merge classics. The third is filled with unreleased rarities. Listening to this compilation is like having a best friend hand you a mix tape. They know exactly what gets your foot tapping.

Gorgeous pop songs like East River Pipe’s “Shiny Shiny Pimpmobile” and Portastatic’s “Noisy Night” (mp3) are mixed throughout the first disc. Then, there are complete rockers from Buzzcocks, Breadwinner, and emo band of the moment …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. Disc 2 shows how diverse the label artists have been. Imperial Teen’s terrific “Ivanka” (mp3) and M. Ward’s “Outta My Head” are standout moments of the entire compilation. There is even the wonderful country tune “Isolda” from Paul Burch. The rarities disc features a cover of “Decora” by Spoon. It also shows how underappreciated bands like Ladybug Transistor and Rosebuds are. Of course people will insist that there were better Clientele songs or Destroyer songs than what Merge offered. But it’s hard to find a legitimate misstep.

You will probably find in your circle of friends someone that can relate a high school or college story to when one of these songs were playing in the background. And it’s funny how such a small label can provide such grand feelings of nostalgia. But then, that’s why we love music so much. Merge is donating all proceeds to the Future of Music Coalition, which leads us to ask what more can we request from this label? Maybe 15 more years isn’t too much.

Destroyer – Your Blues

Destroyer – Your Blues (Merge)

When not part-timing with indie super group The New Pornographers, Dan Bejar is busy fronting his band Destroyer. And for the fourth time this decade Destroyer has released an outstanding album with Your Blues. Sounding at times like David Bowie and or Roger Waters, Bejar stacks this album with lush pop sounds and gorgeous orchestrations that challenge and sooth the listener at the same time.

“Notorious Lightning” starts with an extended a cappella that evokes an image of a dramatic Bejar performing on Broadway under a single spotlight. Soon enough tremendous synth sounds spring up in the background and the song becomes a powerful epic. The song ends with Bejar screaming “AND SOMEONE’S GOT TO FALL BEFORE SOMEONE GOES FREE!” This could very well be the musical moment of 2004.

Bejar continues with a flare for the dramatic on “An Actor’s Revenge” where in the hands of anyone else a line like “The kids twist and shout until the womb fucking wrecks it” might fail horribly. On Your Blues though, it fits perfectly with the fine guitar playing, hand claps, and booming drums, and everything falls into place. The album hits a lull for a few songs towards the end, while “The Fox And The Hound” could have been left off altogether.

“What Road” is another beautiful few minutes of pop music. More gentle guitar strumming and orchestrations so delicate you can barely hear them at times, Bejar even manages to drop a Smiths reference before the sound builds into a gigantic close with the lyric “Yes, that’s right, I wanted you too.” There are moments when you’ll be mesmerized at the layers each individual song contains, and you’ll hear something new on each listen. Bejar’s lyrics are clever but can be heartbreaking. While three songs short of a perfect album, Your Blues is a necessary statement from one of today’s most promising voices.