Seeing Arcade Fire live at Coachella this year was one of the most amazing concert/entertainment experiences I ever had—they definitely proved why they were my favorite band.
From ecstatically singing “Sprawl II” and “Wake Up” with strangers, to the band walking with the crowd in the field next to the stage, it was incredible and everything I wanted it to be.
The girl I’m currently pursuing likes Arcade Fire as much I do. Funny how things happen.
Do you mind if I gush for a second on the what the album has done for me and it’s influence on my musical taste? Ok. This might get a little overly-sentimental/fanboyish. But I want to write. Read on at your own risk.
I first “really” got into music, at least in my opinion, a little later than most. In the second half of my sophomore year of high school, me and another guy (Hi Andrew, if you’re reading this) got transferred from an honors chemistry class to a regular chemistry class. This was a big deal for me, because for me (Along with getting transferred to regular Algebra 2), this was one of the first honors classes I couldn’t handle. Maybe that’s why it was an impressionable moment for me? Who knows. Those things are hard to say.
Anyways, I sat by this friend because he was the one person I knew in the regular chemistry class. It was a pretty small class because all of us were transferred from one class or another to create this class. The teacher most of the time was an older guy who was a student teacher, and didn’t have great control of the class, but was fairly chill and nice nonetheless. Therefore, we could talk and relax in class fairly easily.
My friend sitting by me was nice enough to let me listen to his iPod with him while we worked. Now, it’s not like I was completely devoid of musical knowledge, but I had never really gotten into a band on my own or listened a lot to music on my own. My parents thankfully had/have pretty good taste in music, so I was raised with good music in the background at the very least. In fact, before Andrew ever told me about this cool nine minute song on his iPod (Jesus of Suburbia), I definitely knew who Green Day were and even a decent amount of songs for them (I even got “American Idiot” as a Christmas present in 7th grade, but I couldn’t quite handle the f-bombs at that point). I consistently enjoyed getting hooked on Green Day and listening in most class periods to them with Andrew.
The day of the release of their new album in May (this was 2009) I casually mentioned that Green Day (who she is a fan of) was coming out with a new album that day (not expecting or implying that I wanted to get the album). As we drove around a shopping center at night, I waited in the car for her and my brother to come back in from the store, and she returned with “21st Century Breakdown.” Now many fans regard this as one of their sub-par albums, but for someone who just got into them and music like me, the album was a gold mine. To make a long story short, I listened the album to death, and eventually collected every album they had, and saw them in concert in Vegas that summer with Andrew (the first concert that I really wanted to see or go to as well).
For most of the next year I listened to them almost every day, with slight deviations into other similar sounding bands and the like. I almost (well probably not almost for some people) annoyed people with how much I talked about the band and like them. At the time, their lyrics and attitude inspired and helped me feel good and like I could accomplish things. I felt that they put forward a more genuine feeling that most bands through their music and lyrics. Green Day also got me into listening to alt-radio. It was where I learned about many bands that I still like to this day. And for a while, Green Day were my absolute go to.
But wait, I thought this post was about Arcade Fire? Just wait, that part before hand was important.
My senior year of high school started in 2010, just after the release (though I didn’t know it then) of “The Suburbs.” I had a few friends who were into Arcade Fire, but I really knew nothing about them. Though I heard “Wake Up” in “Where the Wild Things Are,” I mistook it’s “wo-ohs,” for that of the “wo-ohs” in the Kings of Leon song “Use Somebody” (for the records, I’ve never listened to them beyond their singles). It was in my class for film production (called Shark TV, after our mascot) that I first became more aware of Arcade Fire. Our teacher, who was also a media teacher, was showing us an innovative online, interactive music video made in HTML 5, on a website called “thewildernessdowntown.” This turned out to be a video for the single from “The Suburbs,” “We Used to Wait.” I think I liked the song, but I mostly just remembered how cool the video was.
I’m not sure what inspired me to get “Funeral”—it was probably a combination of that video and my friend Dakota talking about how much she liked the band—but one day I walked into Best Buy and decided to get it. I do know that I got “Funeral,” first because I wanted to go in the order the albums in the order they were released. It was probably sometime around October or November that I got it(and I’m not sure where I got the money for it either—I didn’t have a job at that point, but it might have been with money I got from helping my Grandpa filing stuff for his tax business. I’m not really sure. Doesn’t really matter). I distinctly remember taking the black sticker off the front of the album and putting it on the back of my flip phone (it wore off later that school year). Though I don’t remember everything clearly, this was all as I recall a progression of still trying to find more bands that I liked on my own, and seeking out new forms and style of music.
I can also remember putting the album on my black iPod classic (I think it was 16 GB?) that I got from my Dad’s friend who left it at our house and forgot about it for years. I walked around the house with probably those crappy white plastic iPod earbuds, and remember walking through the hallway of my old house(weird to say old house here—but I guess that’s what it is. Still feels like my house, even though I don’t live there), hearing the little twinkling piano from the beginning of Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels). I don’t remember if I instantly thought it was amazing, but I’m pretty sure I at least liked it enough to keep listening(well I guess if I didn’t, this extremely long-winded post wouldn’t exist, would it?). I knew that I recognized “Wake Up,” and I at least feel like I remember liking that song a lot—probably my first favorite(and it remains a favorite—as it does for many people—to me to this day. (Side note, I started listening to “Funeral,” as I wrote this, and it just ended-on to “Neon Bible”). I also spoke to Dakota and remember telling her that I had listened to Arcade Fire’s first album, and kind of pretending not to know the name before “remembering” and telling her.
I still listened to Green Day a bit, but it was also around this time that I realized how thoroughly I had over listened to them, and though I definitely didn’t dislike them, I definitely had to take a break. Sometime around this time I also got a hold of a copy of “Sigh No More,” by Mumford and Sons, and though I don’t listen to Mumford today as much as I do Arcade Fire, those two albums broke the barrier for me in listening to top 40 alternative (almost every KROQ band, etc.) into the realm of “indie” music. Though it would be a bit longer before I fully switched over, it all began with those albums (I also still listen to KROQ and it’s competitor ALT 98.7 today—I just also listen to music I found on my own).
I may have gotten “Neon Bible” for Christmas-I don’t think so, but I’m not sure. But by that point “Funeral” had grabbed me (or so I believe it had—I hate how memory works in making you unsure of what you really felt). But I do know that something in the music of “Funeral,” inspired me in the way that Green Day first did—the sheer genuine emotional tour-de-force the album brings made me (possibly the most overly-sentimental person I know) believe that this band could bring out feelings in me in ways I didn’t know was possible. How could I have a band that I barely knew, and who’s style of music I had never really listened to, evoke such a feeling in me? I may sound like I’m going overboard with sentimentality here, but I cannot understate what a revelation that was too me.
I don’t remember exactly when I bought “Neon Bible,” or “The Suburbs,” but it was sometime before the end of my senior year. I feel like it was a pretty obvious decision for me, however, after listening to and liking “Funeral,” as much as I did. Later in the year, my senior project involved researching folk/singer-songwriter music over time, and though Arcade Fire was not included in this project, this was also part of my progression towards liking new styles of music and researching it more in-depth(for the record, Mumford and Sons was included in this project). Next thing I knew, I was driving out of the parking lot after commencement with my family, and I had brought “Funeral” along. I popped in the CD, and blasted “Wake Up,” at near full-volume as we exited my final moment of high school.
I continued to listen to the band, and while I still mainly relied on rock/alt radio in my first year of college, I was slowly branching out. I don’t have it in front of me, but I can almost guarantee Arcade Fire was on my first sample playlist I made when applying to the campus radio station, KUCR near the very beginning of my freshman year (the playlist, if I recall correctly, was a little too mainstream for college-radio taste—I filled out more applications with a more “indie” friendly playlist but that’s a story for another day). I slowly progressed and started liking more bands with a similar aesthetic and sound to Arcade Fire, and I eventually named my radio show after a lyric from their album “The Suburbs” (which eventually became my favorite album by them by the slimmest of margins).
Because of my new love of different kinds of music, I started going to shows, meeting new people, writing about music (well, take a look at this post), and finding other bands that inspire me in similar ways that I originally found in the cathartic release that was “Funeral.”
It feels weird to call an album “life-changing.” I find that term and terms like it to often be overused and misapplied—maybe thrown around too much. But really, almost over the course of writing this post, which was pretty spontaneous (P.S. If you’ve read this far, you’re a trooper and I appreciate every second of people reading things I’ve put work into), I’ve realized that this album sparked a fundamental change in me. Sure, I’m still the same person generally, but it not only sparked a passion that I follow extensively to this day, but a love for music that, while started with Green Day, grew leaps and bounds with this album.
And the fact is, I still listen to it. And it feels as relevant to me as ever. I played it today on my radio show Away from the Sprawl in it’s entirety for it’s 10th anniversary, and it still felt like the amazing emotional wallop for me it did in 2010. That doesn’t seem like that long, but in that time span I graduated high school, and now am on the cusp of entering my senior year of college. A lot has happened to me in that time. I’ve grown up and done many new things and had new experiences. These songs accompanied me on my way into growing into an adult, and took on new meanings as I had experiences relevant to the situations and emotions the songs present.
And obviously, Arcade Fire isn’t solely responsible for my changes as a person, in growing up, or new experiences I’ve had. But having a soundtrack with a rock solid emotional core to pour yourself into is an important thing, and I will forever carry this music with me (oh boy here comes the emotional part at the end of “No Cars Go” as something not only to take me back to my youth, but something to continually relate to in different ways as I have even more new experiences that I can probably hardly fathom right now (really, I like “My Body is a Cage a lot, but it’s a downer way to end and album after “No Cars Go.” I slightly got that opinion from a review I read, but it rings a little bit true. Good song anyways). The fact that I had a place to let my emotions run wild is something immeasurable, along with the impact it had on my passion or music and other other art (thank you Mr. Brasington, Ms. Stringer, and Mrs. Bovie-Ware for that too).
What more can I say that I already haven’t? I feel liked I’ve gushed so much, but I also feel like this entire post is one of the more honest things I’ve ever written. If you’ve read this far, thanks again—I sincerely appreciate it (“Neon Bible,” just finished—I just started “The Suburbs,” but I doubt I’ll finish it before writing this). I’m going to continue expanding my passions that this album was part of creating, and I am forever thankful of the circumstances that led me to be able to do what I am doing today. I don’t know where I’ll go from here, but I can always look back at this moment and know where I started. With my lighting bolt’s glowing, I can’t see where I’m going—and that’s ok. Better just look out below!
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) - Arcade Fire
You change all the lead sleeping in my head to gold
As the day grows dim, I hear you sing a golden hymn
It’s the song I’ve been trying to sing
Be kind to yourself. Stop telling yourself that whatever you are struggling with “should” be easy. If something is hard for you, it is hard for you. There are probably Reasons, though those may just be how you are wired. Acknowledge these things. When you finish something hard, be proud! Celebrate a little.
And really, just stop saying “should” to yourself about your thoughts and feelings in any context. You feel how you feel. The things in your head are the things in your head. You can’t change either directly through sheer force of will. You can only change what you do. Stop beating yourself up for who and what you are right now–it isn’t productive. Focus on moving forward.”