35 Albums in 35 Years: 2010

In an ongoing attempt to bleed my opinions all over your computer screen, I’m selecting one album from every year that I’ve been alive that has some sort of significance to me…and then writing about it. Welcome back to 35 Albums in 35 Years.


arcadefire2010: Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs

I’m going to have to fess up here. I used to be very jealous of the success that Arcade Fire has garnered over their now 10+ year career as a band. It’s stupid and petty and trite of me, but here are a bunch of guys and girls roughly the same age as me setting out to seek and capture a dream…and succeeding, all the while I sit toiling at my day job and performing at night for an audience of me in my living room. I think that because of the fact that my wife grew up with the band’s Win Butler before he trucked it up to Canada, I put all of this unnecessary pressure on myself based upon an imaginary and unrealistic comparison in artistic goals and perceived achievements. It’s kind of like the childlike desire to be the most successful of all the yahoos you went to high school with. Thinking about it now makes me feel like a jackass. Just do your own thing man.

Arcade Fire does their own thing. The last decade has sprouted a whole slew of imitators and detractors, friends and enemies, and praise and criticism, some of which is unwarranted, but that’s pop music for you. I first got sucked in during the frenzy and hype surrounding the band’s first (official) album Funeral in 2004. The group wore their influences on their sleeves, with ripples of Talking Heads, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, and Neil Young coursing through the record, but it still seemed like a breath of fresh air at the time. And they toured. And they put out new records. And they became this kind of “indie it band” in the music press. That image allowed them to continue to make music the way they wanted to, but it may have also led to some of the bad blood between them and some other artists, as well as the descent from the ever-contrarian hipsters of the world.

2010 saw the band release their third (official) album The Suburbs to unexpected popular acclaim. While it’s not their best album (that would be 2007’s Neon Bible in my humble opinion), it struck me deeply, making me wistful and almost homesick in a way. It doles out ample amounts of nostalgia and regret, like looking at old and faded photographs, silently reliving the good times in your head, but wondering where you would be if things had only played out differently. This theme and mood is evidenced immediately on album opener and title track “The Suburbs,” quite possibly my favorite song the band has ever recorded. It makes me think about childhood and growing up. It makes me miss my old friends and all of the wasted afternoons. It makes me miss my youthful perception of the wide-open future and all the possibilities therein, but knowing that if given a chance, it would probably all play out the same way again.

The Suburbs is hardly a giant leap for the band creatively. It’s actually just a natural progression in the sound that Arcade Fire had been nurturing over their previous efforts, though there are more nods to new wave acts of the 70’s and 80’s, most notably Blondie on the sublime synth-magic of “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).” There are other highlights all over the record, like the propulsive “Ready to Start,” or the glorious and uplifting soar of “Rococo,” the old-school rocker “Month of May,” or the downer and transcendent finale “The Suburbs (Continued),” but the album really pays off in dividends when listened to in full. It’s a grand and meditative opus about where many of us came from, and how we’ll never go back again. Or how maybe we never really left in the first place.

I’m not jealous anymore. I’m a grown-up now.

- Favorite song: “The Suburbs”
– Runner up: “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”

Some other albums I almost wrote about instead: Joanna Newsom’s Have One on Me; Gayngs’ Relayted; Dum Dum Girls’ I Will Be; Gonjasufi’s A Sufi and a Killer; LCD Soundsystem’s This Is Happening; Crystal Castles’ Crystal Castles; Girl Talk’s All Day.


Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

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