Tag Archives: Arcade Fire

Personal Soundtrack

29 Mar

The Song

Sprawl II Remix by Soulwax  [Radio Rip]


Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) by Arcade Fire


Easily one of the best albums of the past several years, Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” has that rare timeless feel to it.  The musicianship behind the songs is incredible, and the entire album holds up just as well on the hundreth listen as it did on the first.  “The Suburbs” seems fated to enter the ‘essential’ albums canon, so that decades from now it can be pointed to as a well-crafted representation of the vague sense of dread and turmoil that marked life in 2010.  The excellent songwriting has a lot to do with the timeless feel of “The Suburbs,” especially with regards to the issues tackled in the lyrics.  Modern American life in the titular suburbs is the main focus of the album, and the lack of fulfillment coupled with a burning desire to just get out are recurring themes.

One of the standout tracks on The Suburbs is “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”.  The title refers to the overwhelming sprawl of the suburbs and the lyrics speak of life and despair in that environment over moody synthesizers.  The electronic element of “Sprawl II” opens it up to remix potential more than any other track, and DJ duo Soulwax have capitalized on that potential with an excellent re-working of the song.

Soulwax take the throbbing bass underlying the original “Sprawl II” and bring it out to forefront, tweaking and manipulating it into a funky, off-kilter beat that gets progressively dirtier as the track progresses.  Adding in what sounds like someone pounding away on a bucket fashioned into a drum, the remix has a high energy level while maintaining the moody darkness of the original.  The theme of ‘living in the sprawl’ remains intact with the new track.   Soulwax does the rare thing with a remix – creating an excellent new song that breathes on its own, while at the same time supplementing and celebrating the spirit of the original song.

The Activity

It’s another weekend morning in the suburb community you’ve called your home for the past eight years.  You moved out here pretty soon after you got married, and have now settled into the straight-shooting life of someone with a nice house, two kids, a dog, and a minivan.  You’re driving a pack of young soccer players to practice in said minivan today, fulfilling your duties as doting Soccer Parent.  One of the players is your 8-year old, who lately has been displaying an alarming tendency to be an entitled, well, brat.

The urban lifestyle of your earlier years has largely blurred into a hazy memory at this point, but there’s still some remnants of your free-spirited side that have been simmering below your well-polished demeanor for quite some time now.  The past few months in particular have been marked with constant reminders of the turbulent yet satisfying life you used to lead in that cramped loft downtown.  Ever since you and the spouse stumbled upon that rock concert at the sweaty, claustrophobic club you thought was a trendy new restaurant, you’ve been feeling more and more restless.  Your spouse quickly dismissed the raucous noise as a novelty, but you’ve quietly been out there a few times since that night, just to drink some cheap beer and let out some energy on the dance floor.  And that little rebellion has started to seep into your mindset as you go about your day in the suburbs.

In fact, this morning you’ve been feeling particularly restless, and the soccer crew is not helping things.  As you pull up to the expansive grass field, your little All-Star is the last one to disembark through the sliding door.  On his way out, he turns to you and says he doesn’t want you driving his friends anymore because everything about you is embarrassing.  And he wants the Grape Capri-Suns ready after practice, because, as he’s said Ten Times, he doesn’t drink this Cherry shit.

As the slow whir of the automatic door punctuates this little exit speech, something inside you just kind of boils over.  In a strange state of calm, you reach for the radio dial and tune to your local indie station.  A dirty little beat comes on, and you crank the volume.  With the windows down and tunes blasting out, you slowly roll the van past the rest of the parents waiting idly in their cars.  You make eye contact with most of them, and an unspoken understanding is shared with some who know how you feel.  These ones fall in line behind your vehicle as you take off into the generic suburb streets.

Riding slow, bumping dance beats, and giving the Eye to anyone who looks your way, you make your way to the parking lot of the SuperMall.  Several other like-minded individuals have joined your procession along the way, and as a particularly great song comes over the speakers, you start circling the parking lot, eventually creating a gleaming ring of vans and CRVs that can hold an epic dance party.  Scared passersby in matching khakis look on as you and the rest of your new crew break it down and let some stress out.  Because someone’s got to do it.


Dancing In The Desert, Pt. 2

19 Jan

[With the Coachella lineup just announced, excitement is running high again for this year’s installment of the Southern California music extravaganza.  Here at Dan Swanky’s, we wanted to push past the breathless hype and get the gritty details about what the Coachella experience is all about.  Lucky for us, our resident Steed made his first trip to the festival last year, and offered to give us a rundown of his time there]

Day One

Day Two

“So I woke up in the camping area around 6am, feeling the full weight of the desert sun bearing down on me like a disappointed parent.  It took me a couple seconds to realize that I was in a 3-4 person tent with what looked like about 8 people.  I was in between two of the Flannel Girls from the night before, but they were deep asleep with the rest of the tent, so I figured it was best just to go on my merry way without disturbing anybody.  I did my best quiet roll out of the tent and popped out right in the heart of Coachella’s tent city, which was just shaking itself awake at the moment.  I didn’t have much of a recollection of how I ended up in the campsite, and all I had on at the moment was an Australian flag wrapped around my waist, so I figured I should probably find my pants and boogie on back to the vacation house.  Luckily, my pants, complete with pockets still half full of mystery, were being used as a blanket by a shaggy looking fellow, so I slid them out of his clutches and took off to find my way back and get ready for another trip into the trenches.

I didn’t really feel much like walking to the house in my pants and flag, (now tied around my neck like a cape, where it would stay for the rest of the day) so I put out my thumb and hitched a ride back with an SUV full of blonde girls in matching sunglasses and vintage tees, heading out from their hotel to get Caffe Machs they Desperately Needed.  Most of the girls didn’t seem to notice I had gotten in the car, but the driver was a pretty cool chick, and with my brightly lit charm, I managed to score an invite to their pool party they were throwing before heading to the shows.  With that in my back pocket, I strolled in to the house, which was already vibrating slightly to the sounds of Brazilian free-form jazz dubstep, and told the dudes to get ready for the pool fiesta.  I think I passed out standing up at that point, because the next thing I knew a Corona bottle was being held to my lips and I was in the car headed to the pool party.

The party was in the pool of another housing complex, so once again we followed the gentle thumping of bass to a pool full of tattoos and sunscreen – and lots of cold ones.  For the next few hours, we quickly made friends with the grab-bag of concertgoers, and at one point I found myself helping a smiley little fellow put a giant stuffed bunny on the end of an 8-foot pole.  I asked him a few times what the bunny was for, but all he would tell me was that I would Understand Later, and I figured why not and let it be.  At one point, someone started a “Sahara” chant, and people started getting their game faces on for the official start of Day Two.  I followed a cute little lady in a sundress, who had told me her name was Ibis, and we hopped in the back of someone’s Scion for the ride over.

When we rolled out of the Scion and back into the dusty waiting room that was the parking lot, I took a deep breath and mentally prepped to keep it together this time.  Ibis grabbed my hand and pulled me through the gate and towards the Sahara Tent section, and as I got closer to the Tent and neighboring beer garden, the quotient of tanned bros and babes began to rise and I could feel the wave of sun-drenched hormones start to loosen my grip on self-control.  Before I knew it, I was in the beer garden with a Heine in each hand and Ibis’ girl crew was grilling me on what exactly I had for party favors.  I tried to hold out for as long as I could, but as the sun began to go down and I finished off cup no. 6, all bets were off and I was toting water bottles with my new group to the slick grass of the Sahara Tent floor.

After several Build-Drop-LoseYourMind musical sequences, Ibis tugged on my flag/cape and led me outside the Tent, where she asked if I would go with her to the bathrooms.  I said sure, and she said Maybe I’ll Even Give You A Hand Job In The Porta-Potty.  I was still at the lower level of the party favor scale, so this made me queasy more than intrigued, and I told her I was fine waiting outside for now.  She went on her way, and I quickly became distracted by a bunch of flashing lights at a sculpture in the middle of the meadow.  Before I knew it, I was lying on my back in the grass and getting a stomach rub from a couple of Australian ladies, who helped me finish my party favors and told me to follow them to Empired Sun [Empire of the Sun].

Follow them I did, and was feeling pretty warm and fuzzy at the outdoor stage until Empired started playing, and I was frozen in place by the scene that was unfolding in front of me.  The band’s costumes looked like they were conceived in a Mayan’s fever dream, and as I frantically looked around to see if anyone else noticed these demons, no one came forward to explain what the hell was going on.  Halfway through the first song, I couldn’t take it anymore and I took off running, with no destination in mind but worried that my life was in danger.  I’m not sure how long I ran for, but I eventually came to rest in the front of the Main Stage, where I found Ibis, who told me that this place had Good Vibes, Let’s Just Sit For Awhile.

So we sat, and huddled together as Arcade Fire took our hands and led us back to safety, a safety punctuated by the white balls of Good Feelings they threw our way at the end of the show.  As we clutched our GF ball and slowly inched out of the meadow for the night, I felt as though I had just ran two marathons in my mind, and I needed an emergency solar blanket.  Coachella had won that round, but I had one more day to tame the beast, and I would come back ready to duke it out.  In the meantime, I needed a Shame Burrito and a hot tub.”

To Be Continued….Day Three…