Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs was one of the most drooled-over albums of 2010, even upsetting Kings of Leon and Eminem at the Grammys and inspiring future listicle collections of teenagers demonstrating their cultural blind spots. So, the 2012 POP Montreal Festival seems like as good of a time as any to take another look at the record and its distinctive, faux-reality-depicting album art.
"The Art of The Suburbs," which runs as part of the festival’s Art POP programming from September 21st-23rd at Nomad Industries, will feature the actual set of the album art as well as other opportunities to discuss and engage with the visuals involved. Three core members of the visual team, Album Artwork Designer Caroline Robert, Art Director Vincent Morriset and Photographer Gabriel Jones will bring festivalgoers into their creative process. There will also be beer, apparently.
The Montreal-based group is heavily involved in this year’s festivities in other ways, too, including Win Butler and Régine Chassagne participating in the POP vs. Jock charity basketball game alongside the likes of The Strokes’ Nikolai Fraiture and actor Martin Starr (Freaks & Geeks, Party Down); and Butler will join Talking Head and general music legend/bike enthusiast David Byrne to discuss his new book, How Music Works. POP Montreal also features performances by St. Vincent and David Byrne, DAM-FUNK, Grizzly Bear, Chilly Gonzales, Peaches, Hot Snakes and more and takes place September 19-23.
Arcade Fire’s third full-length album is out. Pitchfork gives it an 8.6, callingThe Suburbs, “a satisfying return to form.” Kind words considering the notoriously catty music blog tends to turn on former favorites at any sign of weakness. Perhaps it’s ironic, then, that The Suburbs‘ main subject is the rock-worn tradition of aging ungracefully. A.O. Scott might have been onto something when he diagnosed the onset of the Gen X midlife crisis, though to be fair, these early-30’s anthemic Canadian rockers were still in diapers (or maybe braces) when Gen X began its descent into middle age. Not that Arcade Fire has ever sounded particularly young—their first album, 2004’s Funeral, mostly centered around premature nostalgia for adolescence—but The Suburbs finds the band on new footing, waxing orthopedic.
To put it succinctly: the new melodrama is fo yo baby mama. Or something. The band, fronted by husband and wife duo Win Butler and Regine Chassagner, have (mostly) ditched their post-9/11, pre-Obama political anxieties in favor of more familial concerns: rearing, raising, and yes, longing for eternal youth while driving around in cars. Bruce Springsteen eat your heart out. The accompanying arrangements, too, have been taken down a notch, if only from an 11 to about a 10.4. This new-found grasp at restraint suits the band. The toned-down arrangements let Butler’s songs speak for themselves, and showcase his greatest weapon—his evocative, urgent voice. But don’t worry, there’s still swelling strings, ominous organ, and plenty of yelling. Check out one fan’s unofficial video for the title track.