Archive for Arcade Fire

Spike’s Top Albums of the 00s

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2009 by Spike Marshall

Seen as I’m getting all reflective about stuff, here’s my top 10 albums of the 00s in Alphabetical Order, because I could never hope to rank them otherwise.

Spike's Albums of the 00s

Spike's Albums of the 00s

Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

The first Arcade Fire I ever heard was their EP, Us Kids Know, and I was a massive, massive, fan of their work from Funeral onwards. But as much as I loved Funeral I think Neon Bible is an album which just ‘clicks’ and works on a completely different level. Whilst Funeral had moments of ramshackle greatness (Rebellion, Power Out, Wake Up) it was an album that felt like an advertisement for their live show more than anything else. Neon Bible felt like a more cohesive piece of work whilst keeping the discordance of their previous work.

Amanda PalmerAmanda Palmer – Who Killed Amanda Palmer

For everything the Dresden Doll’s achieved I found myself drawn to Amanda Palmer’s solo record as ‘their’ definitive. Whilst only one half of the duo is presented on the record, each song carries the base DNA of what the Dresden Dolls had been doing over the course of three albums. Whilst the spiky punk edge was varnished from her record, Palmer was able to craft insidious little pop songs that had all the nasty little barbed lyrics and manic intensity of the Dresden Dolls whilst making her own sound. Runs In The Family and Guitar Hero weren’t a revolutionary step for Amanda Palmer, but they marked the evolution and growth of her previous sound into something truly special.

DeVotchKa – How It Ends

Whilst the plaintive, aching, title track is what drew me to the album in the first place ‘How It Ends’ turned out to be an almost perfect album from a group that had been operating on the periphery of the music scene. Chic balkic rock was all the rage amongst the indie scene throughout the 00s and whilst groups like Beirut and Gogo Bordello received accolades for their appropriation of this Romani/Slavic sound DeVotchKa simply powered on, slowly building up their sound and moving away from straight homage and into a place where the orchestral elements were still their, but they actually served a purpose in creating great, inspiring, music rather than being mere affectations. How it ends with it’s simple pianos and soaring cellos is an obvious stand out of the album, but songs like The Enemy Guns and She Loves Me both show a band who have mastered their sound and are comfortable to experiment within it.

Esbjörn Svensson Trio – Leucocyte

When it comes to Jazz my head is stuck in the 50s and 60s. To me Jazz is Bill Evans and Dave Brubeck and as such it takes a lot for me to embrace less ‘traditional’ Jazz. E.S.T.  were one of the few contemporary Jazz bands who really struck me and it’s because despite the ‘pretension’ of their music and experimentations with form, the band were always concerned with the music and as such you often felt that their albums were three musicians jamming, rather than a bunch of jazz artists trying to deconstruct the form. It’s one of the great musical tragedies that Esbjorn Svensson was killed before his time and just when his group was starting to make some truly accomplished works.

final-fantasy-blogFinal Fantasy – He Poos Cloud

Owen Pallett is the kind of geek that can make other geeks uncomfortably because he approaches his geekish subjects in ways that feel cryptically ironic, but also uncomfortably honesty. As such it’s hard to tell if he’s really geeky or just being wilfully ironic, and songs about his relationship with The Legend of Zelda games do little to help with this problem. The touring violinst with Arcade Fire and collaborator with several other groups from The Hidden Cameras through to The Last Shadow Puppets Pallett’s two solo records have both been minimal affairs, his compositions designed to be played by a solo performer. Yet these limitations never stopped his brand of baroque pop from sounding incredible. His scathing, literary, lyrics fuelled with geek references coupled with quaint, propulsive, insidiously addictive violin compositions helped to craft two albums that were small in stature but still enrapturing.

LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver

Deftly ironic lyrics? Propulsive, ever building beats? Immaculate soundscapes? Yeah, this is an album I was almost designed to love. Everyone’s who played GTA IV is familiar with Get Innocuous! and it’s ability to make even the smallest action seem utterly iconic. To me, Sound of Silver is probably the most ‘of its time’ album on my list. It’s ironically hip and detached, but it’s also got an infectious sense of fun and at it’s core it’s an album which just demands people pay attention and start dancing. Songs like North American Scum, Sound of Silver and All My Friends have so much energy and so much spark that it’s often hard to categorise just what works about them, it’s like trying to quantify fun.

Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell – Sunday at Devil Dirt

There’s something about the matching of these two voices, grunge singer Mark Lanegan’s american personified voice and Isobel Campbell’s sweet ethereal tones, which gives me shivers whenever I hear them. As individuals they would be great performers, but together they have the kind of frisson and interplay which made Nick Cave’s duet with Kylie Minogue work so well. It’s a beautiful, soulful, simple album.

The National – Boxer

Alligator has the better singles but in my mind Boxer is the stronger album by the National. As individual pieces many of Boxer’s songs don’t really match up to Alligator (in fact Start A War and Slow Show are the only songs I can listen to outside of the context of the album and REALLY appreciate) but as an expansive whole there’s some kind of audio alchemy going on. The tone of the album is perfect and within its own context the album is almost flawless. The only gripe I possibly have with the album is the cacophony of noise the band seem intent on ending all of Boxer’s songs with when playing them Live which whilst sounding great, often takes away from the sleepy, dreamy qualities of the album I really enjoy.

The National

Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, You Are The Destroyer

Concept albums are terrifying things, spawning mental images of beardy prog rock bands and half boiled homage to Tolkien. In the case of Hissing Fauna, You Are The Destroyer the concept seems almost accidental, wounded self destruction transposed to music by the albums creator Kevin Barnes. Dealing with Barnes’ deteriorating personal life the album is a spiral of madness and melancholy crescendoing with the horrifically wounded The Past Is A Grotesque Animal before transmorphing into something almost blissfully prog rock. Despite the album being a soundtrack to the disintergration of its creator’s personal life there’s an underlying quality which makes it almost irresistible. The melancholy is constantly balanced against sparkly, almost pop like, music and even the Past Is A Grotesque Animal (a 12 minute long evisceration of his relationship with his wife) is made into something almost beautiful, the embarrassingly painful lyrics backed by a beat that is almost hypnotic.

Queens of the Stone Age – Songs For The Deaf

Josh Homme might be an egotist beyond repute and Nick Oliveri probably was an abusive girl friend beater, but the two of them together with the help of Dave Ghrol and Troy Van Leeuwen would create an album that was a piece of flash in the pan brilliance. I’m not a heavy music sort of guy, I’m not a fan of metal and I prefer my punk to be post, so the fact I adore this album has always been a bit of an enigma. I think personally there is a melody and throughline to the heaviness which allows me to latch onto something, it’s also pretty kick ass.

Spike’s Top Tracks: 24th Feb – 2nd Mar

Posted in Music, Spike's Top Tracks with tags , , , , on March 2, 2008 by Spike Marshall

Here’s a new idea, I’m going to attempt mini reviews of the five songs that are currently getting the most love from me each week. This isn’t intended to be an insight into new bands, and I have fairly terrible taste. More than anything else it’s an easy way for me to update at least once a week. I’m also providing a multiply playlist with the songs, which means you should be able to stream the songs without the ability to download. Although I’m sure smarter people than me will already have work arounds for that.

Link to Playlist

Seesaw by Cocoon

“I used to be…..a son of a bitch”

Intones the male vocalist of French folk duo Cocoon. Specialising in harmonised vocals with pared down backing music; the duo’s debut album All My Friends Died In A Plane Crash has half a dozen songs which could be on this list. Despite their youth (both members are barely in their twenties) Cocoon creates soundscapes defined by a languid and almost moribund tone. There is a dreamy introspection to Seesaw which plays against the ethereal and pared down instrumentation. It is this innate sadness which propels and defines Cocoon and allows them to carve out their own niche in a genre becoming increasingly oversaturated.

The neo-folk stylisation they’ve adopted put them as contemporaries of Andrew Bird and Sufjan Stevens. Their particular sound style also happens to bring to mind the late great Elliot Smith. Despite this there strength in harmonising and building pared down orchestrations ultimately allows them their own context. When you listen to songs like Seesaw you’re swept away by the drama and theatricality of the piece which helps distance them from their contemporaries.

(Antichrist Television Blues) by Arcade Fire

arcade-fire.jpg

“If my little mockingbird don’t sing, well then daddy won’t buy no diamond ring”

Thrust and momentum aren’t words you’d commonly associate with Arcade Fire, there legendary live shows and hectic debut album conveying a sense of joyous musical chaos. Certainly you listen to Funeral and there’s a sense of musical narrative but it is barely a means to an end, a springboard for turbulent, discordant, enthralling and layered musicianship, a platform for the sheer joy of music. The 2007 follow up Neon Bible would be a far more forceful beast, pushing narrative and structure to the forefront whilst maintaining the rapturous musical pandemonium.

Filled with thoughts of impending war and loaded with neurotic fascinations with the way America is currently working Neon Bible is filled with narrative songs. (Antichrist Television Blues) is one such thing, with its narrative about a father forcing his daughter onto fortune and glory she has no interest in. Lead singer Win takes the role of the father and the song is essentially him begging his daughter to continue her performing and imploring god for answers to the problems which he haunts him. It’s a cynical and bitter song, spat out with punchy style and almost lost beneath wailing strings. Like a demented Johnny Cash cover the song spits out its message whilst maintaining a consistent narrative, all whilst mixed with typical Arcade Fire tropes.

Trophy by Bat for Lashes

“Heaven is a feeling I get in your…arms”

Bat for Lashes is the fancy name for British solo artist Natasha Khan, and Trophy is the second track off of her debut album Fur and Gold. She’s currently building up her reputation in Britain after a Mercury Music Nomination brought a lot of attention to her album. As such she’s in that wonderful moment just before she becomes annoyingly ubiquitous. If you’re lazy you’ll bring up Kate Bush as a nice and easy comparison, and it fits (albeit a little uncomfortably) fairly well. There’s an easy connection between the idiosyncrasies of both performers and the ethereal quality of the records they make.

Trophy is a great example of this, a brooding and stormy song about the most sacred of chalices. There’s a wonderful sparseness to the song, instruments used to provide context more than content. It is largely propelled by Natasha’s vocals, mixed with quite creepy male backing vocals. Favouring percussion and bass over anything else the most notable elements of the song are the strong bass line, hand claps and a set of maracas. This percussive rhythm forces focus onto the lyrics which are certainly Bat for Lashes strong point. Natasha Khan possesses a voice which is quite remarkable, clear, powerful, and striking and almost every song on Fur and Gold serves to highlight her dulcet tones.

Cassius by Foals

“Cassius it’s over, you’re second best”

If you’re British and have interest in music you’ll know about Foals, they’re scheduled to be the next big thing and as such by the time I write this their previous fans may already be riding the hate train to ‘totally sold out central’. It is the price you pay for being a new band aimed at a more ‘discerning’ crowd. I’m told Foals are part of the ‘Math Rock’ movement, the term ‘Math Rock’ itself makes me want to punch people in the neck but who am I to argue against the zeitgeist. Here’s what you need to know about Foals, they place fast and intense indie rock music with idiosyncratic musical diversions occurring usually halfway through a song.

Current single Balloons has a quite awesome drum section which kicks in at the halfway point and Cassius has a horn section (which sounds like it was ripped from the Nuns on the Run soundtrack) which kicks in halfway through.

It is quite hard to be objective about groups whose only rationale seems to be to get people to dance. Certainly Foals are remarkable at crafting fantastic hooks and making great, danceable beats. Seeing them live brings their more technical aspects to the fore, the band going in for jazz style jamming sessions above all else. The singles though certainly showcase a band that can play extremely well, have a great amount of energy, and can write absolutely fantastic fun songs.

M79 by Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend

“Sing in praise of Jackson Crowther”

If you want a band who are all about fun then Vampire Weekend might be the band for you. The New York quartet’s self titled debut album fuses afro-beat with the pop punk and in doing so it creates an album which can just totally brighten up a person’s day. M79 isn’t a song that appears on Vampire Weekend, I was sent the track by an MSN contact after wittering on about how much I loved the album. As such I have no idea where it comes from, I’d guess it was a b-side to a released single, but it perfectly encapsulates what I love about the band.

The album itself trades in the kind of afro-beat that was showcased by Paul Simon’s album Graceland. The dynamics of the album however go beyond Paul Simon’s interpretation and actually seem to be homages to original afro beat bands like Fela Kuti. There is a westernised edge to the group with certain riffs and lyrical themes coming straight from their home city. M79 is perhaps the most displaced of their songs, at least in terms of instrumentation. Whilst the lyrics are lovingly about their hometown (sing in praise of Jackson Crowther being a reference to a local baseball player), the sound itself mixes so many different styles that it becomes increasingly difficult to spot influences. Led by strings (which only make an appearance on the album on the track Walcott) and using a repeated rhythm played by different instruments M79 is the sort of joyous and exuberant track which you’d use to showcase the group.