Wednesday 11 August 2010

Arcade Fire Brigade

Look, promise you won't judge me on this one, will you? Everyone skips over something important once in a while - hell, the Beatles were rejected by the first few record labels they approached for a contract. Even the Mercury Prize, lone guardians of groundbreaking music (apparently) seem to get it wrong every year. It's only human to overlook the obvious. You see, until about a month ago, I'd never listened to Arcade Fire in my life.

Maybe that's a bit of a lie. I've had Neighbourhood #3 on my iPod for several years but didn't really think much of it. My Dad played "Funeral" once in the kitchen and we were both unimpressed. But when I told Ben I'd never really listened to them, he told me he was jealous of me - because he wished he had the opportunity to discover the album all over again.

I admit, I'd seen Funeral in plenty of "top albums of the decade" lists (not to mention frothing hype for their next record), but I'd never really bothered looking into them. But Ben's recommendation (notice a pattern as to where I get my new music from these days? I know, it's worrying me as well) convinced me to download the first album and give it a listen.

And um... wow. It's pretty good. Not that that revelation will come as much of a surprise to most - but to fresh ears, even five years on it sounds just as good. The layered textures of are beautifully constructed, the songs are delicate yet forceful, and the tracks are arranged for maximum impact. Not every tune stands up on its own - although "Rebellion (Lies)" isfantastic - but together they form an impressively cohesive package.

Album of the decade, though? Perhaps it's the context that's important here. Back in 2005, the charts were dominated by hip-hop acts such as Black Eyed Peas, 50 Cent and Kanye West, while Coldplay and Green Day were the best "rock" music could muster. I can only assume - and correct me if I'm wrong - that Arcade Fire's emphasis on glockenspiels, accordions and violins sounded practically alien to an audience grown used to the computer-derived music of the previous last five years or so. Perhaps they laid the foundations for the current folk revival storming the charts. Who knows?

Regardless of any lasting importance, Funeral is definitely a great album. Will the latest album The Suburbs reach its heights? Ask me again in about five years time and I'll let you know.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Introducing... Kid Adrift

I'm sort of stealing this one off Ben here, but he's kind of tied up right now so I'll write it up anyway. He originally sold me on Kid Adrift by describing his music as "Muse meets Aphex Twin". Which isn't entirely correct (I'd argue he's closer to Ratatat than AT) but that's beside the point. Kid Adrift makes pretty good music.

To be fair, Muse is a good comparison to start with. These are fairly bombastic compositions, with OTT prog-rock lyrics like "when the whole horizon is burning up in full view / all that I want / all that I thought I knew", but oh, it's glorious in its epic scale. To top it off, Kid Adrift (Kid A to his Radiohead-savvy friends, maybe?) combines sweeping strings with bubbling dubstep basslines to amazing effect.

The above praise is all for a song called "Oxytocin". It's one of three tracks on a little EP, called, er, Oxytocin EP. The other two songs aren't quite as good, but it's early days for Kid Adrift. This is a damn promising start.

Recommended listening: