WVAU Top Music of 2010: #4

Dan Raby, Carrie Walters

#4 Album:
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

When Arcade Fire played Merriweather Post Pavilion this past summer, I got a ride back to the Metro from a fellow fan. Naturally we started talking about The Suburbs, Arcade Fire‰’s third album. He summed up the album quite nicely: “You know how rappers like T.I. or Ice Cube have their albums where if you‰’re from the hood you get it? Like you understand? Well if you‰’re from the suburbs YOU GET THIS ALBUM! ‰Û

But to be honest, even if you don‰’t hail from suburbia, chances are you‰’ll find something to love and relate to on The Suburbs. Everyone has felt trapped by his or her surroundings and everyone can get sentimental for the simpler days spent wasting time. The Suburbs revolves around these feelings of nostalgia, desperation and defeat. While this could all be a bit dismal, Arcade Fire brings beauty to pain with the transcendent anthems they are known for. Sprawling (ha) vocals and orchestral build-up and explosion make everyday problems sound epic. The songs range from the poppier and hand-clap worthy “City With No Children‰” to the shimmering disco of “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).

The Suburbs can be grim, but Arcade Fire are the masters of depressing optimism. The album focuses on mundane life and its frustrations, but in doing so Arcade Fire seem to emphasize that these feelings are universal, and through these shared feelings and experiences, catharsis can be found. Only Arcade Fire (strange haircuts and all) can sing, “It meant nothing at all,‰” and still make you feel good.

Written by Carrie Walters

#4 Song:
Kanye West – “Power”

Why “Power?‰” Why not the dark thudding of “Monster‰” or the collaboration collage of “All of the Lights?‰” Maybe you prefer the epic autotune drone of “Runaway?‰” What makes “Power‰” such a special song for Kanye over everything else on the album?

I‰’ll tell you why. “Power‰” was the metaphorical firing on Fort Sumter of Kanye West‰’s war on everyone and everything. Let‰’s all go into a time machine back to early this year. Kanye has basically been shunned by the media for making a poor attractive white girl feel bad at a meaningless award show. He has people saying they‰’ll never listen to anything he‰’s created because of his actions. His last album, while fantastic, was considered by many to be too indulgent. His mother has passed away from an accident during surgery. Heck, even Obama called him a “jackass.‰Û

What should Kanye do with the world against him? His response is simple, fight back. “Power‰” was an opening salvo at everyone who said that he was finished. Instead of moping around (which he is known to do) Kanye shoots out some great lyrics.

“I‰’m living in the twenty-first century, doing something mean to it. Do it better than anybody has ever seen do it. Screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it. I guess every superhero needs his own theme music.‰Û

With the war chants behind him Kanye sends an onslaught against everyone and anyone. He sounds pissed and ready to go at any time. The message is clear, Kanye West is here and there‰’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Now if it was just that simple it would be a great track, but not one of the best. What amps it up even higher is Kanye‰’s trademark openness about his own emotional state. Kanye didn‰’t just choose to sample King Crimson‰’s “21st Century Schizoid Man‰” because he liked the sound, it opens a theme that we see throughout the album. Kanye is fighting a battle both inside his own head (his raging ego vs. his desire to change and set an example) as well as outside in the world (the public perception of him). Like my high-school English teacher always said, you need to have conflict to be compelling. If there‰’s one thing “Power‰” is, it‰’s compelling.

Written by Dan Raby