Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Desert Island Discs: Neon Bible

I’m avoiding work by writing another desert island post. Another album that I haven’t been able to get enough of since it came out is Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible. I love it so much, I get excited when I hear it on the radio in the video store. It’s like I have a personal investment in other people liking Neon Bible because that’s how much I like it. As though I might benefit from others liking it, like I know the band or something (I don’t.)

But I think I figured out at least some of the reasons why I love Neon Bible. Mostly, it’s very complex. It’s complex sonically – it doesn’t sound like anything else I know of. It even sounds kind of different from the first Arcade Fire album. Maybe just a bit more epic (hard to imagine). It’s not only that it’s distinctive, though, it’s also that all the layers and compositional eccentricities leave me new things to hear even after several times through. Really, that’s also why I like the album lyrically. The lyrics are dense and interesting. Their meaning isn’t abundantly clear or static, but they aren’t so abstract that one can assume they lack meaning (like, say, the lyrics of Coldplay). If I listen carefully, I might hear something new there too. Also, as the title indicates, there’s an overarching theme of religion in culture. That’s kind of something I’m interested in. You know, a little.

As though I haven’t raved enough, there are also just some moments that I really love. I love the opening of “Keep the Car Running,” and the string part throughout because it’s innovative and it reminds me of my orchestra days. I like trying to figure out what “Intervention” is about, I like the anger of “(Antichrist Television Blues)” and the wistfulness of “No Cars Go.”

To summarize, this album isn’t like anything else. You should listen to it. Seriously. At least 3 times before you decide you don’t like it.

Here are some other desert island reviews:


Why Should the Fire Die
Achtung Baby

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

In Praise of Podcasts

I spend a fair amount of time on buses. Since I moved to my new place, I live mere blocks from a campus bus stop. I get a short walk, and then a free ride to school – something more and more valuable with the price of gas these days. The ride takes a while, maybe 20 minutes, since I often ride the entire route, south campus to north. This doesn’t seem long enough to try to read – plus the movement and crowds make this challenging. Instead I listen to my ipod, and have quite a satisfying podcast routine. I love podcasts. They help me keep up with and understand important news, they keep me entertained engaged, sometimes moved. They keep me company. Here are the ones I look forward to every week:

Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me: the NPR News Quiz

This show is hilarious, while still being high brow. Everything you could ask for from NPR. They often have fascinating guests, and they don’t take themselves too seriously. The Stephen Colbert episode was particularly good.

Slate Political Gabfest

When I listen to this podcast, I feel like it’s the same thing as sitting in a room with some smart journalist/commentators and catching up on the week’s news. They include just the right amount of goofing off with each other that I really feel like I’m in the in group. Except I never get to participate. But it’s still another way to make sure I caught everything important in the week’s news, and understand what’s important about it.

This American Life

This one is a bit dangerous for bus riding, because if I’m caught in the right mood, I can be moved to laughter or near tears. And the other bus riders probably think I’m some kind of crazy, but I don’t even care, because that’s how good it is. This show introduced me to Sarah Vowell, for which I am eternally grateful. I desperately want like to write like she does – funny, smart, self-deprecating. Anyway, the whole show is good and beautiful and fascinating. I love it.

I encourage my readers to spice up their travels with a little bit of these Podcasts. They are a nice way to structure my week – in bus rides, walks and listens.