'Everything Now' Album Review
Arcade Fire, the six piece band from Montreal, Quebec, have just released their fifth, full length studio album on Columbia records entitled Everything Now. The album was produced by the band in collaboration with Thomas Bangalter (Daft Punk), Steve Mackey (Pulp), Geoff Barrow (Portishead) and Markus Dravs (a three time Grammy® Award Winner who produced Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, Mumford & Sons, Babel and Coldplay’s ‘Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends’). With a line up this proficient, it’s hard to imagine anything more impressive. ‘Everything Now’ steers away from natural, raw, indie rock toward more refined disco, afro-cuban, electro-pop. Being their fifth studio release, it’s no surprise that Arcade Fire have moved on toward new territory, as would/should any maturing band. In an interview with Zane Lowe on Beats 1, Singer Win Butler mention that it’s probably their most cohesive album to date. ‘The White Album is a really good playlist, ‘London Calling’ is a good playlist. It’s not an album, ‘Everything Now’ is just a playlist.” Stated Butler.
The ‘playlist’ hits off with the first single ‘Everything Now’ a three chord Lydian anthem that was released on June 1st. Perhaps a perfect mesh of what I could’ve imagined an Abba/Bruce Springsteen/Arcade Fire song would be. ‘Everything Now’ samples a flute hook from ‘The Coffee Cola Song’ by Francis Bebey, Win Butler mentioned in a recent interview with Dutch music site 3voor12, that he’d originally intended to simply do a remix of the Bebey song which must’ve provided the right amount of inspiration to conceptualize ‘Everything Now’ – a single which sets the feel and ultimately dictates the flow for the rest of the album. The arrangement is colorful and interesting without sounding over thought with a pumping backbeat, tight but extrapolated melodies and plenty of opportunity to reach for your hairbrush-microphone with a classic feeling, ‘Arcade Fire’ style acapella break toward the end.
Signs of Life
The third single (released June 30th), is ‘Signs of Life’. This is a slick disco jam with a four on the floor kick and two chords flushed out around a tight, repetitive bass-line. Nice doubles and complex layers keep the track interesting despite the constant repetition of the relentless motifs. Butler takes a stab at rapping the days of the week which ends up giving the track a sort of Blondie-esque ‘Rapture” feel. Paired with tenor saxes, strings, analog synths and vocal harmony stabs there is much in the arrangement to appreciate – even if you don’t care for the song itself.
Next up is what turned out to be the playlist’s second single. Originally released on June 16, ‘Creature Comfort’ is definitely the standout track on this album and my personal favorite. The ostinato synth has a deep swag akin to The Knife’s ‘Heartbeats’ whilst the bass guitar riff sounds heavily influenced by Peter Hook from New Order. The main riff is bolstered by the upper register of the bass giving room for that weighty synth to move freely without muddying up the mix. Once again, a simplistic jam which maximizes a three chord trick until the bridge when we get the relative minor. Overall a bright, fun, dance-centric helping of electro pop.
‘Peter Pan’ brings a slightly dubbed out feel to the album. Reminiscent of something ‘The Good, The Bad & The Queen’ would have released, the overdriven bass synth gives an interesting contrast to a clear, delicate piano and accompanying horn stabs. Employing some strong sound design the bending, portamento synths have a truly unique, yet haunting familiarity to them. A strong guitar riff consistently pokes through the track and the nostalgia vibe that Arcade fire does so well is omnipresent. This song leads perfectly into ‘Chemistry’, a light, afro-cuban beat which is nothing more than a single chord vamp with the exception of a fat, Sabbath-esque riff during the choruses.
‘Infinite_Content’ comes packed in two tracks, something of a Jekyll and Hyde. The first reaches the same intensity level as The Suburbs’ ‘Month of May.” Its overdriven guitars and crunchy bass are expertly welded together, evoking some of Neutral Milk Hotel’s ‘Holland, 1945’. All the while Butler repeatedly shouts “All your money is spent on it, Infinite Content, we’re infinitely content,” it almost comes off as a protest march shout. The music slowly develops and builds and at the climax, flips polarity and falls into the second installment of the song. This half is the alter ego, semi-americana ballad. It almost seems like a demonstration of how radically musical content can actually be changed under the direction of a serious production team.
‘Electric Blue’, released July 13 2017, features a lead vocal from Butler’s wife, Regine Chassagne. It’s a very nicely constructed song with the interval created between the instruments and the vocal register of Chassagne creating an empty feeling that you don’t get that often in the pop world. It’s been said, and I have to agree, that there are no wrong choices in music, only better ones. This was definitely an unusual decision but it makes for an interesting sound. The rhythm of the verse is similar to that of of MGMT’s ‘Electric Feel’ and in combination with the similar song title, creates some speculation of an attempt at parody, or perhaps just the manifestation of genuine influence. Either way, the track is another solid addition to the album.
Good God Damn
‘Good God Damn’ is a great example of how important comma placement can be. Lyrics aside, this recall’s The Rolling Stones ‘Hot Stuff’ with a drum kit so tight and in the pocket, you might wonder if they recruited Charlie Watts to sit in. The arrangement is sparse in comparison to some of the other tracks on the album which feels refreshing as the tenth track looms.
Put Your Money on Me
Lyrically, Put your money on me, offers the most honest and uplifting moment of the album. “If you think I’m losing you, you must be crazy. Put your money on me. I know it’s not easy.” Butler atones with Chassagne, elevating the meaning of this one. Being in a band with friends is difficult, it’s hard to imagine what a marriage would go through under the pressure and egos in an ascendant band like Arcade Fire. By the time groove reaches a new height at the final chorus you feel , just for a moment, like you understand.
We Don’t Deserve Love
‘We Don’t Deserve Love’ has the most interesting harmonic content on the album. The chord progression along with the the sliding portamento synths take the listener on an analog journey all the way to the infectious chorus. Chassagne’s “ah’s” over Butler’s vocal on the bridge send chills down your arms – if you’re truly listening.
Everything Now (continued)
‘Everything Now (continued)’ reluctantly climbs down amidst a calming swell of synths that underpin Butler’s final lament of “Everything Now”, until the lush strings gently take over and send you through a time loop, all the way back to the beginning of this triumphant album.
Arcade Fire may be criticized for straying from their origins or conversely for being too samey. Whichever, it’s clear that this is an authentic band, their passion is transparent and can be easily heard through each song and every, detailed performance. In his June 17th interview with 3voor12, Butler speaks of how initially Arcade Fire was an acoustic band and when they decided to go electric, they got a ton of backlash, “You’re not trying to make music to please everyone, you Just have to make it for yourself.” Arcade Fire have shown the ability to add real textures and flavours from outside influences without losing their identity. Their sound is quickly recognizable and unmistakable, just as it always has been.
Arcade Fire announced the first leg of their Infinite Content tour. Tickets will go on sale on 6/9 at 10AM local time. Here are the dates:
09/05 Quebec City, QC @ Centre Videotron
09/06 Montreal, QC @ Bell Centre
09/09 Ottawa, ON @ Canadian Tire Centre
09/12 New York, NY @ Madison Square Garden
09/15 Boston, MA @ TD Garden
09/16 Washington, DC @Verizon Center
09/17 Philadelphia, PA @ Wells Fargo Center
09/21 Atlanta, GA @ Infinite Energy Arena
09/22 Tampa, FL @ USF Sun Dome
09/23 Miami, FL @ Watsco Center at the University of Miami
09/26 New Orleans, LA @ UNO Lakefront Arena
09/27 Austin, TX @ Frank Erwin Center
09/28 Dallas, TX @ American Airlines Center
10/11 Edmonton, AB @ Rogers Place
10/12 Calgary, AB @ Scotiabank Saddledome
10/14 Vancouver, BC @ Pacific Coliseum
10/15 Seattle, WA @ Key Arena
10/17 Oakland, CA @ Oracle Arena
10/18 San Diego, CA @ Viejas Arena
10/20 Los Angeles, CA @ The Forum
10/22 Las Vegas, NV @ Mandalay Bay Events Center
10/25 Denver, CO @ Pepsi Center
10/27 Kansas City, MO @ Silverstein Eye Centers Arena
10/29 St. Paul, MN @ Xcel Energy Center
11/01 Windsor, ON @ Windsor Credit Family Union Centre
11/03 Toronto, ON @ Air Canada Centre