Monday, August 3, 2015

the suburbs

Arcade Fire started a war they couldn't win and moved past the feeling of abandonment and escaped living under the shadows of the sprawl.    The band had found considerable critical acclaim with their debut 'Funeral' and the followup 'Neon Bible' only increased their credibility with commercial success.   'The Suburbs' was recorded at Petite Èglise in Farnham, Quebec, at Studio Frisson (a church outside Montreal),  The Magic Shop in New York City, and Public Hi-Fi in Austin, Texas.  The sessions were produced by Arcade Fire with Markus Dravs and featured  Will Butler on synthesizer, piano, guitar, bass, organ, and background vocals;   Win Butler on vocals, guitar, and piano;   Régine Chassagne on vocals, drums, piano, harpsichord, synthesizer, organ, and keyboard strings;   Jeremy Gara on drums, percussion, piano, and synthesizer;   Tim Kingsbury on bass, guitar, percussion, and background vocals;   Sarah Neufeld on violin and background vocals;   and  Richard Reed Parry on guitar, double bass, piano, harpsichord, percussion, and background vocals;    with  strings by Sarah Neufeld, Owen Pallett, Richard Reed Parry, Marika Anthony Shaw, Clarice Jensen, Nadia Sirota, Yuki Numata, Caleb Burhans, Ben Russell, and Rob Moose;    Colin Stetson on saxophones;  and  Pietro Amato on French horn.  The string arrangements were done by Owen Pallett.  

Chassagne: After ‘Neon Bible’ we took a year off, just staying at home and writing songs and doing regular things. That was a very happy time. ‘The Suburbs’ reflects that." 

Gara: The time off really made a massive difference in terms of feeling creative. We really went into this wanting to do it, which is a positive way to be feeling. When we recorded ‘Neon Bible’ we hadn’t taken a break and we had just come off an extended tour for ‘Funeral’ and the world at large felt tense. I think that can’t help but have infiltrated the sound of the record a little bit. Also, ‘Neon Bible’ dealt with global anxieties...Musically ['The Suburbs'] feels like a darker record because it was super ornate with strings and lush, emotional instrumentation. This one, there’s still emotion in it, but the subject matter demanded a little less ornamentation. There’s not as much orchestral elements on this record. It’s replaced with synths and it’s a little more percussive and a little more rock’n’roll. One of the reasons it sounds lighter is that the arrangements are not as overblown as we’ve been in the past because the material didn’t demand it ... When we were in the middle of recording it late last year I felt awful. It felt like the hardest process of all time. Just because it’s more material than we’ve ever recorded. It became clear how long the record was going to be. It was like, ‘Oh my god, this is so much material’. We were working on twice as much material as ‘Neon Bible’ and trying to do it in the same time frame and it felt awful at times. But we always do that. We record until we’re sick of the process. The albums are better for it because we’ve put in all the energy we can muster."

Win Butler: Some of the stuff was the easiest we’ve ever done and some it was the hardest. There are six more songs than on our previous two records, so we were recording a lot more material. This record is really like a double LP: it barely fits on a CD. It was that much more work ... It was a much larger set of songs.  We kept refining and editing back.  30 or something. There were a couple that were not related.  There's a chunk of them that just sound like they were from a different planet ... In my experience, it’s not a conscious decision, you just get inspired by what you get inspired by. I got a letter from an old friend and it had a picture of him and his daughter at the mall near where my brother and I grew up [in Houston, Texas]. It was unforeseeably moving and it brought back a lot of memories. This combination of someone that I hadn’t seen for a long time and his daughter who I’d never met and a totally generic but familiar place. It was this conflicted but very deep feeling...I don’t know. I try not to psychoanalyse myself too much. Montreal is the place I’ve lived longest besides Texas. I’ve been there for almost ten years now. Next year I will have lived in Montreal longer than I’ve lived anywhere. It feels like home. Even though Houston is currently the place I’ve lived longest in my life it’s the place I feel least connected to, so even though it’s not all literal and not all about me, I wanted to make a record about that feeling ... The parts of the album that are autobiographical were inspired by growing up in the suburbs of Houston. My parents moved there for my dad's job, so there was never a real pride of place in my household; it wasn't like, 'I'm stoked about my house and my yard.'... And I went to boarding school for high school, so I kind of missed the whole 'fuck this place' phase when it comes to the suburbs. My parents moved to semi-rural Maine when I was in college, so I haven't really been back to the suburbs in a long time, too. I have definitely developed an appreciation for aspects of it now that I'm at the point where I'm considering having kids. It's like, 'Oh shit, it would be nice to go to a place where there's no crime and great schools.' I don't want to move back to the suburbs any time soon, but you see why people move there."

Chassagne: Both Win and I grew up in the suburbs. I grew up in Quebec, he grew up in Houston. What was interesting to me is that even though the places we grew up in were very different there were feelings and emotions attached to our surroundings that transcended the culture. We could both relate to the same sentiments even though we were in different countries. That’s why this album has fifteen songs. I think it was interesting to describe all those feelings. For example, the feeling when you’re very young that suburbs are kind of nice because there’s a little park to go to and it’s safe, but then you grow up and as a teenager it seems kind of dead and you feel like you want to get out of there. The image of the suburbs is not very glamorous and it’s not something people are very passionate about, but there are still dramatic stories that happen there. Everyone has their own little suburb story...I don’t know. I don’t analyse things. It just came out like that. It’s not something that you plan. The album is not one judgement on the suburbs. It’s more cinematic, like scenes around the suburbs. 

'The Suburbs' reached number six in Australia;  four in Germany and the Netherlands;  three in France;  and number one in Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Norway, the UK, and the US.   'The Suburbs' won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, the BRIT Award for Best International Album, the Juno Award for Album of the Year, and the Polaris Music Prize for best Canadian album.

'The Suburbs' from the short film 'Scenes from the Suburbs'

"Ready to Start"

"Modern Man"

"Sprawl II"

"Month of May" live Jools Holland

'The Suburbs'
full album:

All songs written and composed by Sarah Neufeld, Richard Reed Parry, Jeremy Gara, Win Butler, Will Butler, Régine Chassagne & Tim Kingsbury. 

1. "The Suburbs"   5:15
2. "Ready to Start"   4:15
3. "Modern Man"   4:39
4. "Rococo"   3:56
5. "Empty Room"   2:51
6. "City with No Children"   3:11
7. "Half Light I"   4:13
8. "Half Light II (No Celebration)"   4:25
9. "Suburban War"   4:45
10. "Month of May"   3:50
11. "Wasted Hours"   3:20
12. "Deep Blue"   4:28
13. "We Used to Wait"   5:01
14. "Sprawl I (Flatland)"   2:54
15. "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"   5:25
16. "The Suburbs (continued)"   1:27

bonus tracks
17. "Culture War"   5:14
18. "Speaking in Tongues" (featuring David Byrne) 3:51

'Scenes from the Suburbs' directed by Spike Jonze
Scenes From The Suburbs from Katherine Louise on Vimeo.

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