Wake Up from Funeral
With the end of 2009 only five weeks away, we are starting to see some "Best of Decade" lists popping up all over the interwebs. Here and Here are two good examples. Music lists probably get the most debate because there is so much music released and opinions can be quite vast regarding what is good or best, especially over a decade. Also over a 10 year span, popular musical tastes can change greatly and it is interesting to look back at what was considered great nine or ten years ago compared to current tastes (a great example of this is to compare music in 1960 to music in 1970; or 1985 to 1995).
Also it is inevitable when these lists are put together that an artist will only get one entry. This is usually done because there is limited space (top 20 or 50 albums, for example) and unless a band releases two incredible albums, one will usually get left off. Who can really blame the reviewer(s)? They don't want to be seen as a geek for one band, and a lot of time these lists are also used to show how broad one's tastes are. Doesn't mean we can debate the decisions. I might take on these debates over the next few weeks.
One thread I have seen in these lists is that Arcade Fire's 2004 album Funeral is getting listed (usually quite highly) instead of 2007's Neon Bible. Frankly I think both should be listed, but if you only had one to pick, which one would you pick?
Funeral is an obvious choice for best of decade considerations as it was highly received and universally loved when it was released. For Arcade Fire band members, the years leading up to the recording of Funeral were marked with death and many of the songs address the pain that follows the death of an aging loved one. As Pitchfork Media stated so well in it's review: "Funeral evokes sickness and death, but also understanding and renewal; childlike mystification, but also the impending coldness of maturity. The recurring motif of a non-specific "neighborhood" suggests the supportive bonds of family and community, but most of its lyrical imagery is overpoweringly desolate." Pretty deep stuff. The album is moody, it sweeps you up. It's great as background music but it is fantastic to listen to by yourself, getting overwhelmed by the music and evocative lyrics.
In 2007, Arcade Fire released Neon Bible and the pre-hype was over the top. Based on Funeral, expectations for Neon Bible was sky high and for the most part the reviews were glowing. Also much was made out of the band's purchasing of an old church near Montreal that was then converted into a recording studio. Neon Bible, although moody and atmospheric, is a different album than Funeral. Instead of looking inward and reflecting on death and "deep thoughts" Neon Bible is outward looking, focusing on worldly issues such as government, religion, the military, and even the entertainment industry. The music is propulsive, however, it doesn't erupt. Instead it gradually intensifies, coming to a satisfying crescendo by songs end.
So which is better? Both are great and it could be akin to asking a parent which child they love best. However, for me, Neon Bible is better. It basically comes down to the songs. Song for song, I think Neon Bible is best overall album. Whereas Funeral ends stronger, Neon Bible is good throughout. Both deserve consideration as among the decade's best, but Neon Bible should be rated higher.
What do you think?