Medium Rotation — We; We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong

ARCADE FIRE We (Columbia) — The first impression of We, the new album from Arcade Fire, is that the rock gods of Montreal are circling back to their foundational sounds after a couple albums tinkering with some electroclash of the titans. Although it’s surely true that its easier to find a track here that could be stealthily added to to the band’s revered debut, Funeral, without spinning the kayak, We is interesting because of the way it holds the entirety of Arcade Fire’s winding creative trek to this point. “Age of Anxiety II (Rabbit Hole)” is a grand example of that totality. Listening to it is like gazing at the night sky when a blackout extinguishes the light of the city; suddenly it’s clear just how much is there. The album’s preoccupations are a fascinating paper clip tangle of the timeless and the firmly modern, like Father John Misty or Destroyer with a little more playful irony. Arcade Fire is one of the few acts that could pull off “End of the Empire IV (Sagittarius A*),” a piece of stately pop that expresses existential malaise by repeatedly proclaiming a desire to “unsubscribe” and summing up the disenchanted by languidly snapping, “Fuck season five.” The survivor spirit pushed to the limit is also heard on “End of the Empire I-III,” with its bartime resigned rally “And the oxygen is getting low/ Sing a song that we used to know/ One last round before we go/ One last round before we go.” We is collective worth joining. Open your eyes and ears to these other offerings: “Age of Anxiety I,” the propulsive “Lightning II,” and “Unconditional (Lookout Kid).”

SHARON VAN ETTEN We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong (Jagjaguwar) — Sharon Van Etten has long felt like an artist who put her whole being into her recordings. Her songs have an almost alarming intimacy at times, like diary pages were mistaken for sheet music and everyone in the studio just ran with it. On We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong, everyone in the studio was sometimes just Van Etten. Casting back to her earliest days making homemade CDs, Van Etten stuck to a new studio space set up in her Los Angeles residence, an understanding strategy when trying to make art when a subset of her fellow citizens were strangely unconcerned that they every exchange of breath might include the makings of a hospital stay. The album moans with a dread of a world in collapse, but it’s hard to pin down just how much of that can be attributed to the whole out-of-control-pandemic thing. Gorgeous gloom had always kinda been Van Etten’s thing. On the new album, she delivers sweetly forlorn pop with “I’ll Try” and goes achingly spare on “Darkish.” “Anything” is a potent extension of the sound of Van Etten’s preceding album, the spectacular Remind Me Tomorrow, while also serving as and the latest salvo in the unofficial competition with Angel Olsen to see who can make romanticized misery sound more epic. It’s not clear who has the edge between the two of them, but the true winners are anyone who listens. Hear how very right Van Etten is with “Home to Me,” “Born,” “Headspace,” and “Mistakes.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s