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August 4, 2010 7:52 PM   Subscribe

Arcade Fire devise 'synchronised artwork' for The Suburbs. Montreal band develop album art in the digital age, providing bonus material to accompany the download of their latest LP. "The idea is simple... Tightly sync a series of images with specific moments in a song using the m4a format. Like some podcasters do, but with micro chapters for each lines of the lyrics. In addition to that, we were able to add good old hyperlinks also synchronised to the song. This gives the possibility for the band to add, at any moments, all kinds of references related to each song. They plan to change and update those links occasionally." says: Vincent Morisset, director of Arcade Fire's Miroir Noir live DVD
posted by Fizz (51 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
No doubt will be exploited in the future to serve up ads as well.
posted by dave78981 at 8:06 PM on August 4, 2010


Finally! An Arcade Fire post on The Blue!

I don't have much to say, other than that the new album is absolutely fantastic. Even once the fanboy-new-release effect wears off, I wouldn't be surprised if this tops my 'best of year' list.

After Neon Bible, I gave up hope that they'd ever top Funeral. They might not have achieved this feat with The Suburbs, although they seem to have come damn close, which is impressive in its own right. Brings me back to my days as an angsty suburban teenager :-P

Also, it was a pleasant surprise to see actual liner notes with the physical album.
posted by schmod at 8:24 PM on August 4, 2010


This has to be better than the awful iTunes LP bullshit, or whatever they're calling it this week. That's basically a .pdf file that downloads with the music, but offers no actual interactivity with the music you're listening to. Considering the power of the technology available, it seems like so much more could have been done -- synched highlighting lyrics, some kind of (even primitive) CD+G kind of features, whatever. NOTHING at all. Just "here's some pages to look at".

I'll be interested to see how this Arcade Fire thing works. Maybe they'll do it right. Someday, someone is going to create the perfect interactive album format -- the one which was happening in my mind while I sat on the floor in the stereo sweet spot staring at the album art and lyrics sheet of my vinyl collection. So far, though... nothing close.
posted by hippybear at 8:26 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I forgot the obvious: http://www.arcadefire.com
posted by Fizz at 8:41 PM on August 4, 2010


I love this album. I've been listening to it non-stop all week (my pre-order arrived Monday). I haven't tried the synchronized artwork yet.
posted by mike3k at 8:43 PM on August 4, 2010


I remember playing around with this several years ago when it was called "enhanced podcasting" and it was fun to sync stuff up but it only works in AAC format, not mp3.
And while it's cool in theory, in reality who stares at their iPod when listening to music? You're at the gym or walking on a busy street or whatever. I usually listen to my music while I'm doing something else, cooking or vacuuming or whatever; maybe it's because I'm old now or because there hasn't been anything to look at in a long time, but sadly the days of sitting there with headphones on, reading liner notes and absorbing every detail of the album cover are over for me.
Still, it's cool that they're making the effort at least, so good for them.
posted by chococat at 8:44 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of course. 20 minutes after I buy the album from iTunes.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:46 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think this album is superior in every way to Neon Bible. And I have enjoyed the way that this band embraces (attempts to embrace) the interactive when it comes to their music: Check it out.
posted by Fizz at 8:46 PM on August 4, 2010


I usually listen to my music while I'm doing something else, cooking or vacuuming or whatever; maybe it's because I'm old now or because there hasn't been anything to look at in a long time, but sadly the days of sitting there with headphones on, reading liner notes and absorbing every detail of the album cover are over for me.

I recommend making time for it, if you can! I've made a habit of giving new albums my full attention on the first playthrough, like they're short movies. (Also, I've decided that I'm not "allowed" to use them as commuting/exercise/background music until I do so.)

This new thing the Arcade Fire are trying sounds awesome. I admit to not being a big fan last time I tried to get into them, but this seems interesting enough to give it another go.
posted by danb at 9:05 PM on August 4, 2010


The new album is deadly dull. You can hear the band trying to recapture the magic of Funeral in a paint-by-numbers manner. I absolutely love Funeral; was disappointed by Neon Bible except a couple songs ("No Cars Go" and "My Body Is a Cage"); won't be buying The Suburbs or looking forward to their future efforts.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:08 PM on August 4, 2010


Terry Gilliam directed a Madison Square Garden concert that will be streaming live Thursday.
posted by dobbs at 9:10 PM on August 4, 2010


To be clear, I was disappointed by Neon Bible relative to the very high expectations set by Funeral. It was still plenty good enough to be worth buying when I had to use up some credits on eMusic before my account refreshed. The Suburbs is not even at that level. The band has gone from "desert island album" to "hmm, pretty good overall" to "I wouldn't mind at all if I never heard this again," in three albums.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:11 PM on August 4, 2010


I love the band but found the new one pretty disappointing. "The Suburbs" and "Sprawl II" are on par with their best work, but at least half of the album is forgettable and dull. I think I like them best when they shoot for the rafters, like on "No Cars Go," and that happens pretty rarely here.

I read some review (can't find the link now) which basically said the band was brilliant for sounding dampened and boring, because it's a perfect match for the thematic boredom of living in the suburbs. I can't think of many other bands that could get away with that; it seems like Arcade Fire can do no wrong. Ah, here's the quote I'm thinking of, from Paste:

Vast stretches of The Suburbs feel tamped down, as if the album is sonically emulating its subject. Where past Arcade Fire songs built upwards, these unfurl flat and wide; the euphoric spikes that served as Funeral and Neon Bible’s beloved rallying points are strangely absent here, spaced farther and farther apart. Arcade Fire seems to be testing us, luring us down into the lowlands. A vein of emptiness and Beckett-esque waiting courses throughout; as so often in real life, these suburbs are a kind of purgatory with no exit in sight.
posted by naju at 9:12 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I recommend making time for it, if you can! I've made a habit of giving new albums my full attention on the first playthrough, like they're short movies.

You're right. I still try to do that, but lately the best way for me to absorb a new album is when driving, particularly at night while everyone else is sleeping. I kind of go into a trance when driving to music, to the point of being a bit grouchy if someone starts talking. The new Teenage Fanclub was a great late drive up through northern Ontario a few weeks ago.
Back on topic, I loved Funeral when it came out. I heard "The Suburbs" single from the album on CBC earlier today and it sounded great. Have to catch the rest of the album.
posted by chococat at 9:38 PM on August 4, 2010


No doubt will be exploited in the future to serve up ads as well.

Actually, embedded http images? That's already user tracking.

Why didn't the RIAA do this years ago?
posted by rokusan at 11:16 PM on August 4, 2010


The live-stream will be available on YouTube for non-US people (Vevo seems to think otherwise and won't load the link dobbs posted).
posted by gregjones at 11:30 PM on August 4, 2010


OK, that synchronized art thing is pretty damn slick, and I feel like that's a far cooler thing to do than whatever dog's-breakfast visualization iTunes feels like throwing out.

But over to the derail! I'm happy to hear that I'm not the only one who was baffled and underwhelmed by the new album. After BBC called it "better than OK Computer" I was having one of those what-am-I-missing crises. Jaitcoh, I called it "Funeral-by-numbers" in my head too. All the same bits, but arranged with only half the wit and a third of the passion. Granted, I dug Neon Bible even more than I liked Funeral, but that's probably just a matter of identifying more strongly with the raised-by-fundies thing.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 11:38 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's Win Butler on the Gilliam webcast and on the short movie that Spike Jonze has made with them for the album: (Pitchfork).
posted by progosk at 11:49 PM on August 4, 2010


Amazon has the MP3 download of the album up right now for just $4. I listened to the first few songs on YouTube and decided it was solid enough to pull the trigger at that price.
posted by anifinder at 1:54 AM on August 5, 2010


I loved Funeral, and Neon Bible. I really can't wait to check out the new album. I'm sure it will live up to my rather meager expectations. Glad to see this post on the blue. So glad.
posted by IvoShandor at 4:18 AM on August 5, 2010


Everyone knows Pink Floyd did this decades ago by pairing "Dark Side of the Moon" with "The Wizard of Oz."

Seriously though, I look forward to checking out the new album
posted by exogenous at 4:51 AM on August 5, 2010


This move for interactive art/video is brilliant. Paying for music online is not issue for me, what bugs me is getting a standalone image in PDF format. I miss the physical art and booklet that accompanies a physical CD along with the case.
posted by Fizz at 4:54 AM on August 5, 2010


Of course. 20 minutes after I buy the album from iTunes.

THAT'S what you GET!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:53 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]



Terry Gilliam directed a Madison Square Garden concert that will be streaming live Thursday.


I guess living in Europe it makes sense that we get a much cooler vidcast called "We're sorry, VEVO is not currently available in your country" since we don't really have suburbs.
posted by srboisvert at 6:50 AM on August 5, 2010


To those already dismissing "The Suburbs" as forgettable and dull -- like so much of their work, it took a few listens and some time to digest before I realized that this was actually my favorite album of theirs to date, as opposed to the disappointment I'd expected after hearing the singles for the first time.

Much as I adore the histrionic sincerity of my favorite tracks off "Funeral" and "Neon Bible," the restraint and maturity of this new album have made an incredibly rich and nuanced experience for me, personally. Whereas I've never particularly cared to sit through their existing albums in their entirety more than once or twice, I have been quite literally unable to stop myself from putting "The Suburbs" on a seemingly infinite loop whenever I have a free moment. The music is ambitious but highly listenable, the lyrics are poignant and full of the complicated emotional narratives I've come to expect from this band, and their thematic through-line of suburban adolescence is consistent without becoming monotonous.

Not that others aren't completely within their rights to disagree, of course. I'm just kind of mystified by the disappointment.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:21 AM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't get the Funeral comparison at all. Funeral was big and bombastic. It was grand. Larger than life.

The Suburbs isn't any of those things. I adore it, don't get me wrong, but I really think it's the furthest thing they've done from Funeral yet.
posted by JimBennett at 8:52 AM on August 5, 2010


After Neon Bible, I gave up hope that they'd ever top Funeral.

Neon Bible is better.

The Suburbs is kinda boring so far. It seems like they could have axed songs 1-4 with little loss. (Ready to Start is a virtual retread of Keep the Car Running.) It picks up at Empty Room through Month of May, but not really that great after 3 listenings so far...

at least half of the album is forgettable and dull

That's a little how I feel so far too. I get the whole "muted" sound suburbs thing, but it's just too fuzzy and bland for me so far.

It's notable that the album doesn't start rocking until Regine shows up on Empty Room. It's also odd that Win's voice sounds crisp and clear throughout the album while Regine's is muted.

(Mark my words: Win and Regine are the Lindsey and Stevie of this generation. (Does that make Arcade Fire Fleetwood Mac? (They wish.)))

What's this about virtual album art? Probably a good idea if it works (though it's likely just as reproducible as MP3s?)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:24 AM on August 5, 2010


Saw them (for the first time) at MSG last night, and was utterly blown away. I guess I'm in the minority in liking the Suburbs best among their 3 albums to date - lots of interesting stuff and, as always, nary a cliche to be found - which to my ears is the sine-qua-non of it all.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 10:38 AM on August 5, 2010


The new album is fantastic, and, as they say, rewards repeated listenings. I'm looking forward to the stream from MSG tonight.
posted by jokeefe at 10:51 AM on August 5, 2010


Nary a cliche to be found? Are you kidding?
posted by ReeMonster at 10:58 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I usually listen to my music while I'm doing something else, cooking or vacuuming or whatever; maybe it's because I'm old now or because there hasn't been anything to look at in a long time, but sadly the days of sitting there with headphones on, reading liner notes and absorbing every detail of the album cover are over for me.

...

I recommend making time for it, if you can! I've made a habit of giving new albums my full attention on the first playthrough, like they're short movies.


Me too. I love to put on a record and just sit and listen or read the liner notes or lyrics. Circumstances (full-time job, baby, spouse with different musical tastes, small living space) can make that difficult, though, especially if you like to listen to lots of albums. I find that listening to albums on uninterrupted commutes (bus/train rides and walking) is an adequate solitary substitute (though with much, much worse sound quality, unfortunately).

On the artwork, the more I think about it, the more I agree with chococat: "in reality who stares at their iPod (or PC) when listening to music?" If I wanted to watch a(n interactive) music video, I'd watch a(n interactive) music video.

Nary a cliche to be found? Are you kidding?

Heh. I had a spit take there too.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:20 AM on August 5, 2010


For all those fans who love the new album, which songs do you like? I haven't seen any specific songs mentioned.

Yes yes, of course, it's "a collection of [16] individual musical tours de force sequenced to flow with sonic and thematic coherence." but which songs do you like?

I've already mentioned Empty Room (and that I think the first 4 songs are weakish b-sides). I also like Half Light II (Springsteen is OK with me), and Month of May actually had me excited for the album. We Used to Wait is pretty good too. Sprawl II is OK but nothing new.

Not bad at all. But that's about it. I listened to the album again (the 5th time so far). Maybe it will just take a while to grow. Islands are like that for me.

Month of May is reminding me a lot of The Violent Femmes right now...

Violent Femmes : Hallowed Ground :: Funeral : Neon Bible
posted by mrgrimm at 12:07 PM on August 5, 2010


right off the bat my fave is modern man. tell me - i'm happy to be educated - what cliches do you hear? I want to know.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 3:06 PM on August 5, 2010


without going into the music, nostalgic melancholia is a well-established indie-rock cliche.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:17 PM on August 5, 2010


that's cool, mrgrimm - but, like, I was referring to the music. They don't sound like anyone else to me - which is not to say that I don't hear influences, just not obvious ones that sound like rip-offs to me. YMMV.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 4:37 PM on August 5, 2010


We're all watching the webcast, are we?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:25 PM on August 5, 2010


Can someone post the set list to last night's show?

but, like, I was referring to the music. They don't sound like anyone else to me

Here's one from the first 10 seconds of the album: the jangly guitars and piano in The Suburbs. that's 1996 Wilco to a T.

Don't get me wrong. All music is a ripoff in some sense, but I'm just not experiencing (yet) the same joy I had with Funeral or Neon Bible.

De gustibus and all that, but I want more Neighborhoods #2 and #3 and less Neighborhood #4. More Well and the Lighthouse and less My Body is a Cage. More Empty Room (I love the look Regine gives Win when they start singing, like "why the fuck is his mic so loud?") and less Wasted Hours.

right off the bat my fave is modern man

I had the bridge (or chorus? "In line for a number but you don't understand ...") stuck in my head all last night. The rest is mostly forgettable for me, though. Maybe it will grow.

Anyway... I remembering having the same argument from the other side with alleged "fans" who didn't like Neon Bible. ^_^ History is a cruel mistress.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:30 AM on August 6, 2010


Also, I've never really thought the same of Arcade Fire ever since they stole that dude's basketball player.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:45 AM on August 6, 2010


I don't have a problem with the new album not being bombastic enough. I was ready to accept any level of intensity or dynamics from them. I wouldn't even mind if they put out an album that was consistently at the level of their mellower songs from the first two albums. Sure, it wouldn't be "Wake Up" or "No Cars Go," but that'd be fine with me.

No, my problem with The Suburbs is simply that the songwriting is not very good. It's not terrible, but there isn't a single song that stands out as "Hey, that's pretty great, I definitely want to hear that again."

Admittedly, I listened to the album just once straight through (having heard the title track and "Month of May" a few times on NPR), so maybe it'll grow on me. However, the comment that said that the Arcade Fire overall is an acquired taste has not been the case with me -- all of their songs that I love are songs I was instantly captivated by.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:51 AM on August 6, 2010


you know, you're right about the jangly sound on the track The Suburbs, mrgrimm. I guess I didn't consider that 'cuz the chord progression there is fairly unusual. That said, it's being awfully generous to Wilco (whom I love) to attribute that sound to them. Maybe the Byrds, though... anyway, thanks for pointing that out.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 11:47 AM on August 6, 2010


also I dig on the weird time signature changes in Modern Man - not in and of themselves, but the fact that they happen in an otherwise easy-going poppy tune.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 11:48 AM on August 6, 2010


This album has the best production and doesn't sound dull at all, in my opinion. As a set of songs, Funeral clearly beats it but The Suburbs works better as a whole album. Also, did you guys see Owen Pallett (who also has a fantastic album out!) playing with them last night? I didn't know they played together!

mrgrimm: "Can someone post the set list to last night's show?"

Here you go :)
posted by yaymukund at 5:02 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Month Of May is the weakest song on the album, in my opinion, but after watching the performance last night I realized maybe it's meant to be performed live. The loudspeaker adds an edge that the studio version doesn't have (or maybe the loudspeaker in the studio version is just too quiet).
posted by yaymukund at 5:04 PM on August 6, 2010


Also, did you guys see Owen Pallett (who also has a fantastic album out!) playing with them last night? I didn't know they played together!

Yep, he did string arrangements for all three Arcade Fire albums. He does string/orchestral arrangements for lots of bands.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:08 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, and as long as I'm quoting your Owen Pallet comment, I'd just like to echo your parenthical, "who also has a fantastic album out."

Er ... make that: "who has a fantastic album out."
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:26 PM on August 6, 2010


Owen Pallett has several fantastic albums out, under the name Final Fantasy.
posted by jokeefe at 7:14 PM on August 6, 2010


I'm pretty sure "has a fantastic album out" was supposed to mean "has a current fantastic album out," not "has only released one fantastic album ever."
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:37 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Even after multiple takes, it's still falling a little short. "We Used to Wait" is another good one, though... oh, I already said that...

I can't believe I'm not going to buy the album, but who knows... It just doesn't measure up for me, specifically to the other big "mainstream indie rock" (oxymoron as it is) releases from MGMT and Wolf Parade (not to mention the stuff I haven't heard yet from Versus or Superchunk).

Also ...

N: But you hate Bruce Springsteen and U2! You might as well be listening to Bruce Springsteen, but not as good.

R: Pitchfork gave them an 8

posted by mrgrimm at 11:18 AM on August 13, 2010


You might as well be listening to Bruce Springsteen, but not as good.

This is very true. The Arcade Fire has always had their mainstream/Springsteen/U2 streak, but it used to be mixed with more indie weirdness and originality. They're veering more and more into unadulterated mainstream-ism.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:52 PM on August 16, 2010


Rococo is the stand out song for me, but I agree with a lot of the sentiment here that The Suburbs isn't up to par with their first two albums.

That said, I will forever worship Arcade Fire for one simply reason...Intervention.
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 9:35 AM on August 30, 2010


Errr. Simple.
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 9:36 AM on August 30, 2010


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