Double Take: Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

You can’t always trust your first impression. In Double Take Brandon Stosuy reevaluates albums that were wrongly slagged or sainted.

I like, nay, love a lot of music — and a lot of it’s popular. I would never dislike an album because it featured heavily on year-end or other sort of list. That said, I did disagree with a number of consensus 2010 favorites, including certain parts of our own Top 50 Of 2010. This is why I reassessed Stereogum’s No. 1 album of the year Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in the first installment of Double Take and decided to take a closer look at album No. 2, Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, in this sophomore edition.

“The music divides us into tribes, you choose your side, I’ll choose my side,” etc.
- Win Butler

There are certain bands I don’t like personally, but can understand why other folks enjoy: Since releasing Funeral in 2004, Arcade Fire’s been one of those groups. It’s not hard figuring out why people like their big sing-along anthems, the thoughtfully romantic lyrics, the engagement with the political, the shambling communal live shows, etc. There’s nothing wrong with any of it; the way it’s done just isn’t my thing. I know Funeral well — it has its moments. My favorite thing about Neon Bible is that (a) it reminded me to re-read John Kennedy Toole and (b) that the group tried too hard to make meaning and it was sorta pretty watching them topple here/there. It seems like a number of hardcore fans were slightly disappointed with Neon Bible and believe the group got their mojo back with The Suburbs. I kept this in mind when I tried to get to its core.

I find myself empathizing and agreeing with many of The Suburbs’s themes: The idea of growing up, finding your desires and ideals shifting, searching for a power and place in nostalgia without wasting too much time in the past, looking for the same in the hyper-speed present, etc. Suburbia’s a rich, poetic topic more than worth exploring, John Cheever. Here, there are songs with pretty enough sentiments: “We Used to Wait” (“I used to write letters,” “Hope that something pure can last,” etc.), “Rococo” with its easy, ridiculous hipster cynicism (“They will eat right out of your hand / Using great big words that they don’t understand,” etc.), “The Suburbs” (“So can you understand? / Why I want a daughter while I’m still young / I wanna hold her hand / And show her some beauty / Before this damage is done”). Nothing mind-blowing — it’s basically the stuff of high-school poetry, a kind of purple, rambunctious high-school poetry I personally find appealing. That said, too many of the songs — “Modern Man,” “City With No Children,” “Half Light II (No Celebration)” to name a few — are so cliche or vague or no-duh or “OK?” to be basically nonexistent. A variation on a theme can be a powerful theme, but not if your words lack real power: We’re told songs were inspired by Win and William Butler growing up in Houston, but these songs aren’t really about the suburbs, they’re about anywhere, which is cool, but also sorta whatever.

Musically, the songs also often feel tired and used. (When not straight-up annoying, a la “Rococo.”) The well-worn Arcade Formula’s seductive and I get the idea of giving a homogeneous sheen to the collection — to mimic the ’burbs themselves, it’s undifferentiated sprawl — but it ultimately makes for interminable listening. The Suburbs is an hour long, but by the 45-minute mark it starts feeling like those endless summers you had as a kid. Maybe I like my rebellion with a bit more raw power. Or more personalized, idiosyncratic sentiments. In that sense, Win Butler is an interesting frontman: As much as he bellows and wears his heart on his sleeve, his delivery remains weirdly distant, his lyrics applicable to anyone. Maybe he’s going for an Everyman Zombie thing? Maybe he escaped from Less Than Zero. The Google Mapped “We Used To Wait” was a clever way to personalize the nostalgia, to make the listeners feel something. Otherwise, the lyrics remain general, stock. The Suburbs isn’t a horrible album, but it is often a boring album, one definitely in need of editing — it’s too long, unvaried. Why not chop “Month Of May” and “Deep Blue” and the silly, overwrought “Sprawl (Flatland)” and just cut to the entertaining, anthemic disco of “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” and the appropriate closer “The Suburbs (continued)”? I’m all for big gestures, and for taking our time, but not for wasting the time of others.

If you’re in the mood for shaggy, overstuffed Springsteen-inspired anthems that are grownup, speak of a real place (absolutely sweat it), and make you feel young again, I suggest Titus Andronicus’ excellent The Monitor. Want calmer, moodier, more specifically intelligent and moving thoughts on adulthood from adults, go for the National’s High Violet. Both albums outclass, The Suburbs, an album that for all its outpouring and meditations on aging, feels flat, emotionally immature, and weirdly vacant.

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Comments (191)
  1. Could not agree more. I predicted the hype for this one would die back when it first came out (to much derision, but finally I have my vindication!). I could not believe that anyone could listen to Sprawl pt. I without laughing through those embarrassingly pretentious, un-self-aware lyrics.

    • I also, could not agree more. I wondered why everyone was so quick to throw this one up on their best of 2010 list. this review really could be summed up in a few words: boring, flat, emotionally immature, weirdly vacant, and overrated to boot. this one is hard to get through. 16 songs that trudge along, that don’t build, that don’t engage me at all.

    • i was i could do a double take on your blog. …boo

    • i feel like you’re being pretentious by using the word pretentious in that sense in your comment

    • I couldn’t disagree more with this comment and this double take review. Although, I do find the opposing perspectives appealing. It is refreshing to see many different subjective views of something (negative or positive). With a variety of perspectives we can be aware of insight that might have been overlooked. I also understand the hostility to this re-review. When someone contradicts themselves, people usually find them unreliable.

      As for me, after listening to this album religiously I found myself discovering more with every listen. You may laugh, but to be honest I found Sprawl pt. 1 moving and honest. I did not sense anything pretentious, but I will reanalyze the song. Anyway, good double take.

  2. I liked this album when it came out. I still like it now. But nice that Stereogum can have it both ways with the positive review when it came out, and a negative review here. I look forward to another review of the album in another 6 months, when you guys deem the album “Kinda OK!”

    • Agree 100%.

      “Double Take” is completely ridiculous when so little time has passed since Take 1. What has changed? The album itself hasn’t. Did the writer take the cotton out of his ears? Switch weed dealers? Go back on Ritalin?

      This use of “Double Take” seems to indicate that the writer didn’t amply consider what he wrote the first time… or that his judgment is too easily influenced by hype or excitement to stand up over time.

      • Stereogum isn’t just “one dude” who writes everything. This article was written by Brandon, as noted in the post. If you look at the premature evaluation page for this album (http://stereogum.com/446892/premature-evaluation-arcade-fire-the-suburbs/franchises/premature-evaluation/ ) you’ll notice that no authors are listed, because presumably it’s much more of a confluence of opinions. Brandon seemed to state as much in the last Double Take, when discussing Kanye’s place at No.1 on their year end list.

        Whether or not you agree with his article, I think it’s both healthy and interesting to read different points of view on an album/band/whatever. As opposed to 100 bloggers and blogs that just list the same top 10 albums, with a slightly different rotation.

  3. I love the spaces in each songs. It’s definitely a long album, but as I listened more and more, I loved the speed, the momentum, the building, the releasing of each song. I think each song is a clearly defined piece and space that I can just live in.

    The songs themselves don’t explode open or even progress a whole lot unto themselves, but the sequencing creates a rewarding sense of progression. It was the album I found myself listening to the most year.

  4. I think this was a good choice for the Double Take. I was rolling around happily loving this album with friends when I first heard it, and then after listening to it more.. I almost felt embarrassed for them when i finally paid attention to the lyrics. Also, I just couldn’t help but skip quite a few tracks around the middle of the album. That being said, I still think it deserves to be where it is on most lists, because I just loved it so much more than a lot of other albums that came out in 2010. Is that a good enough reason?

  5. So everytime people get excited about an album or a band, let’s try and rip the floor out from under them just because you want everyone to be as pretentious and self loathing as yourself.

  6. Thank You!!!! The lyrics make me cringe so badly.

  7. Don’t disagree with your points, however I find The National and Titus Andronicus just as overly earnest and self indulgent. Personally, I enjoy the sound, texture and musical references of Arcade Fire more.

    Totally subjective — but then that’s the whole point.

    http://www.oldwaver.com

  8. I think more than anything, this highlights the subjective nature of music. I agree with a lot of what was said (HIgh Violet as a more mature album, for example. and there is some fat that could be trimmed) but feel that most of the criticisms are simply subjective. Which obviously isn’t to say they’re wrong, just subjective (I’ve used that word a lot, I know, but hey I’m not the professional writer here.) City with No Children in it is one of my favourite tracks, and has become so over time. I wouldn’t consider it dull or cliche or whatever. And while the Suburbs may not be as mature as High Violet, it doesn’t make it any worse, just a different perspective, a different voice.

  9. Eh. I guess I can see it being too long, but the good songs are really excellent. I think We Used to Wait might be the best song they’ve done post Funeral.

  10. Really great writeup. I do agree that at times the lyrics can come off as a bit pretentious, but for the most part I think Arcade Fire are really genuine. For me, the album isn’t as great as Funeral, but better than Neon Bible. I disagree when you say that the album feels vacant, but again, agree to disagree.

    All in all I do feel that the album was over-hyped but is still been pretty great. Keep up the good work with these double takes.

  11. Does every album have to have a backlash (MPP) or an anti-backlash (MIA’s new album)?

    The Suburbs is a great album. I don’t think it was as good as The Monitor (then again, I don’t think anything else was), as you mentioned, but I do think it’s definitely better than High Violet. My problem with The National’s album is that, except for the singles, it meanders; there’s a sameness to a lot of the songs, so most end up bleeding together, and nothing is too memorable. I actually think Boxer is a superior album, in both the singles and the overall album itself. I also don’t think either Arcade Fire or The National really has a lot to say when you scrape beneath the surface, but they both sound pretty trying to be profound. And if they’re both going to chase those sort of Bossisms, I find myself more attracted to the pomp of Arcade Fire’s Boss-via-post punk agitation than I do the rumbling, meditative ennui of The National.

    • Interesting because I think everyone still and always will love MPP.

      • Yeah I don’t remember much Merriweather backlash. Still a terrific record.

        • Uh, within the first six months there were already a lot of people calling the album overrated. It became a pretty regular joke to slag on MPP and Bitte Orca since they both received an insane amount of hype. I think we’re finally past the overpraise and eventual backlash to realize it really was a great album.

          • Fans of Animal Collective’s who prefer their more adventurous albums (Here Comes the Indian, Sung Tongs) have good reason to be disappointed with MPP. While “nice,” it offers what countless other indie pop acts dish out: sunny, melodic ditties inspired by Brian Wilson.
            And the lyrics are almost depressingly banal. “We Tigers” may not be classic poetry, but it’s a hell of a lot more intriguing than Panda Bear’s boring domestic life.

  12. I absolutely agree as well, well said. There are some good moments on the album but as a whole, I wasn’t very impressed.

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  14. THANK YOU.

    I’ve been feeling this way since day 1, it’s nice to hear that other people are finding the album cliche and a bit boring too.

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  16. I wish someone would use examples of terrible lyrics on this album instead of saying that they are “pretentious.” thats the lazy way of saying you don’t like something. Maybe its just me but I thought there was nothing wrong with the lyrics especially in “Suburban War” which perfectly describes friendships kids have growing up with one another

  17. Kudos to this website for sucking this hard. I am officially giving up on stereogum.

    “Lets rank this album #2 to appease the majority who think its great, then say its hollow to appease the most elitist of hipsters.” Your move is as transparent as it is annoying.

    • this album sucks because the music is contrived and they’re adding nothing new to an age old dialogue about growing up. calm down with the hipster shtick.

      • offended by the hipster comment. hahaha

      • You do realize this column is just one man’s opinion and not that of the entire site, right? I certainly don’t think it’s some sort of hipster marketing ploy, simply because it’s a blog… not some evil corporation. Brandon Stosuy is just offering a different view on some albums that may have been over- or underhyped. It’s almost (ALMOST) a matter of playing Devil’s Advocate. And I’ll be damned if it doesn’t make for a good read!

        Also, I type this as I listen to NPR (I’d tell you which band, but you probably wouldn’t know them) and sip an overpriced coffee in my oh-so-unique second-hand outfit and think about how much better than you I am because I listen to Animal Collective… Because that’s what all hipsters are like, right?

        • True. I should add: “The views expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily represent,” etc.

        • I just thought the hipster comment was funny especially when the person was offended. I think it’s all ridiculous because I am as indie as it gets but I also play lacrosse, workout, and am in a fraternity.

          • I think what was offensive about the hipster comment was the implication that we are all elitist. Having been called a hipster myself, I can tell you that the “pretentious” and “obscure” jokes can become very bothersome after a while. I mean, I’d like to think I’m a fairly open-minded and non-judgmental person, but apparently because I wear plaid and like music that isn’t played on the radio in small Canadian towns like mine, the notion that I could be anything less than pretentious and snobby is absurd. Frankly, like Eddie said, that assumption is rather ridiculous. I mean, the exact same thing happened to emo kids when I was in 8th grade, and it was still childish then. Not every hipster listens to NPR, or drinks overpriced coffee, or wears second-hand clothes, or likes Animal Collective. And even if we do, it doesn;t mean we think we’re better than you. So, when I make comments like the one I made above, it’s important to note that they are dripping with sarcasm.
            SO let’s all be friends and stop the stupid cliques. Who gives a shit if we have different opinions or tastes in music? It’s really not a defining aspect of the self.
            That’s my spiel. Simply the musings of a teenager.

    • Different people with different oppinions. It’s an ongoing dialogue and revisitation of music. I don’t necessarily agree with this analysis, but I see it’s basis, and you’re an idiot if you don’t think music is an ongoing dialogue.

      • Fools.

        “I am as indie as it gets.”
        “Not every hipster listens to NPR, or drinks overpriced coffee, or wears second-hand clothes, or likes Animal Collective. And even if we do, it doesn;t mean we think we’re better than you”

        What the fuck?
        Do these people realize how stupid they sound?

        No one cares.

        • “Who gives a shit if we have different opinions or tastes in music? It’s really not a defining aspect of the self.”
          Remember when I said that?
          Thank you for supporting that, and also proving my point about childishness. Killed two birds with one stone.

          • this is funny because if i remember correctly most hipsters hate hipsters and thus don’t go around saying that they are hipster, rather, they go around complaining about how hipsters are annoying. this is also funny because people have turned this article into something where they can call themselves hipster or “indie” just to show that they are in fact pretentious and annoying (thank you to jay mamana for pointing out how stupid these people sound).

            Also just so i don’t seem like some totally pretentious troll or whatever, this album was in fact very awesome, I think the reason alot of people are so disappointed about it is because there was too much hype built up prior to the release kind of like mgmt’s oracular spectacular or vampire weekend’s contra, except those two albums really did suck

          • congratulations not oracular spectacular, sorry

        • That hipster above does all of that.

  18. I don’t know, I always enjoy arcade fire and i was ecstatic when the suburbs came out. Then, when i listened to it, i thought it dragged, and there were spots where i was finding myself trying to stay awake basically. It’s not a bad album, it’s an album that can easily be skipped through. Also, occasionally (and i mean occasionally) i find myself wanting to listen to a specific song but not the whole album. I still think neon bible is their best despite everyone else hating it.

  19. One issue I have with this album is that when you are singing about The Suburbs and modern boredom, it’s easy to get into sarcasm and cliches. I don’t think they get into it all the time, but there were points that made me cringe. There’s some melodrama that I didn’t quite buy.

    “dead shopping malls .. mountains beyond mountains and there’s no end in sight” … it’s such an easy image to evoke that it becomes too lyrically simple.

    But I’m internally conflicted: Thom Yorke worked with these themes too, so why did I buy that? Is it because he personalizes it better? Uses more obtuse metaphors? Is it because of Radiohead’s tendency to muck up the music if it gets too pretty? I’m not trying to bring up the comparison here, but it’s what I’m asking when I listen to this record.

  20. totally agree.

  21. All this article seems to be is someone saying that they never liked this album to begin with (or the band) and still don’t.

    I find the criticisms annoying, it’s like because The Suburbs made some themes too easy to identify it’s somehow cliche and not sophisticated enough. I think maybe if the reviewer was really into this band/album he would have given it more of a chance and found that there really is a lot to this album, and a lot of themes, imagery, etc. that run throughout that make this a lot more sophisticated, if thats what your knock on it. I’m not criticizing the reviewer for not liking the album, sometimes bands just rub people the wrong way and that’s obviously totally legitimate, no matter how popular/well-reviewed the band is….but I don’t like that the review seems to knock the intellectual worth of the album as the reason for not liking the album. I happened to really like the songs you say that should have been cut because they make the album “interminable” and think that a song like “Suburban War” clearly qualifies as “raw power.” I mean just by suggesting that the album is about simply “rebellion” shows that the reviewer missed a lot that other people may have got from it…I personally think that the album takes a very complex approach to its themes and by no means can be simply summed up as being about rebellion.

    I also don’t get the ending section where the review suggests other albums to consider: “Want calmer, moodier, more specifically intelligent and moving thoughts on adulthood from adults, go for the National’s High Violet.” I also really liked High Violet, but why suggest an album with a totally different theme from The Suburbs as a replacement for it? You can certainly legitimately think that High Violet is a better album, but the way you put it (“more specifically intelligent”) is just pretentious and creates a false comparison.

  22. If you’re just going to continue going up the Top 50 list, I’m eagerly awaiting your Re-review of Robyn’s Body Talk. I’ve mentioned this before, but I just don’t *get* that album. It just sounds like shitty pop music to me, not to mention every single track sounds the exact same. But Body Talk hate aside – MBDTF and The Suburbs were two of my favorite cds from 2010 and I’m surprised at the backlash that both have encountered. I know lyrics are an important part of music, but you can’t let a couple of lame lines ruin the entire cd for you. I guess you and I have different taste Brandon, because I think everyone’s first impression of MAYA was correct and I disagree with your re-reviews so far. However, keep ‘em coming! I’m sure we’ll agree on something at some point.

    • I agree with Body Talk needing a re-review. I mean is it really that good, or is just an obsession with everything foreign that causes all the hype. I mean imagine if an American Artist released that album, what would the reaction have been???

      • Body Talk lives up to its accolades. It has nothing to do with Robyn’s Swedish nationality.

        And to answer your question about the reaction if a similar record was released by an American artist, that’s easy. Some woman put out a record two years ago called The Fame Monster. It sold pretty well.

  23. Wow. This entire feature is ridiculous and I echo most of the negative comments above. This article should be in the dictionary next to pretentious music douchery. The album is very good. This idea is not.

    • Are you being sarcastic? It’s fine if you’re not. But I totally disagree. Even thought I don’t agree with Brandon’s review completely, I think it’s a great idea to get different and conflicting reviews of the same album. I think other popular Indie music review sites (pitchfork) would do well to employ a similar tactic. Some people like it, some people don’t, and it makes for great discussion to hear WHY from both sides. At least Stereogum, in this regard, isn’t trying to be a definitive tastemaker, again like that other popular indie music review site.

      • I agree that it’s a good concept, but it would be nice if we could get someone else’s Double Take rather than continuously having the same reviewer write these pieces. Brandon’s perspective seems purposely contrarian and not only that but he seems to pride himself on knocking music he’s inclined not to like in the first place.

        Like I said in another post on a Double Take, I don’t think it’d be legitimate for me, a person who will say up front that I do not like any metal, to critique metal albums and try to convince other people not to like them.

        But to his credit, Brandon does seem to have some reasonable criticisms (amongst others that are less so) of music he’s disinclined to like in the first place.

        • Yeah, to me it just seems like a transparent attempt to be contrarian for the sake of being fresh. “Let’s take all the great albums of the past few months and then jump aboard the inevitable backlash train to make sure we profit from both viewpoints.” I don’t buy it. If an album is good, it’s good now just as it was 6 months ago. First impressions mean a lot in music. Personally, this idea is everything I hate about music blogging. Pick a side. The value added of this is 0.

          • I can agree that a more interesting double-take format would be two simultaneous and contrary reviews of a single record. However, I would hold that time can make a huge difference in the perception of an album. after all, music criticism is primarily perception.

  24. I don’t get the point of this Re-review of an album from last year. You guys should review some new indie bands and/or new indie albums released this year instead of wasting our time with all these “now we feel this way about this album reviews…” The Suburbs was good album, not great but just good. Definitely not best album since Funeral, “Month Of May” should’ve been a B-side and their best song since Funeral was “My Body Is A Cage” from Neon Bible.

  25. You could Double take every album and find some fault in it. I’m sure a lot of people don’t hold 2009′s AOTY, “Merriweather Post Pavilion”, in the same light than when the first heard it.

    As far as “The Suburbs” are concerned my only complaint initially was that it was overstuffed and if they trimmed the fat it would be as good as “Funeral” and I still feel that way. Personally, I think Deerhunter’s “Halycon Digest” was the best album of 2010.

  26. I’m sorry but i think that double take is a horrible idea. especially when you are double taking albums that you already put at the top of your top 50 albums. like the person above said, you could double take every album. there isn’t really a point of doing a double take.

    what has been done is already done, just move on and review new music. its annoying when i come to your website for new music news, and all i see are the same albums that have held the headlines for the past few months.

    obviously everyone has different opinions, but what is the point of reviewing something that happened months ago? it is just baffling to me.

    i feel like you are just double taking albums to have something to do. if you are going to waste time double taking old albums, why only double take on albums from last year?? lets double take them all. all the way back to the earliest days of recorded music.

    • This was posted today and is already #1 most commented on post. I’m guessing it’ll be the most viewed shortly too. The popularity alone (be it inspired by negativity or positivity) is reason enough to keep the feature running. You helped contribute to this popularity: well done, you!

      Personally, I find the idea of ‘just moving on’ without stopping to reflect on music of the recent past a really contemptible approach to appreciating music. Not everything needs to be so bleeding-edge current and ‘on the pulse’ that it renders the music itself disposable. You can’t seriously tell me that you’ve never bought an album and thought “this is terrible!”, only to find that you love it 6 months down the line (or vice-versa: loved -> hated). Everybody has had this sort of experience, and it’s a testament to the enduring quality of the artform that our relationship with it can change over a significant period of time. This double take feature, in my opinion, celebrates that relationship while casting a level critical eye at the music itself divorced from the headlines/hubbub it generated on its release.

      If you want up to date news and reviews go to Pitchfork, Drowned In Sound, Cokemachineglow, Tinymixtapes, Rolling Stone or NME (whatever suits you). This is a blog, which is supposed to have opinion pieces like this as part of its core content. I still think it’s a great feature, so keep ‘em coming, Stereogum.

      • Just in case anybody thinks my argument here is linked to my overall feelings about album: I actually like The Suburbs and don’t support Brandon’s take on the album. I enjoyed reading it regardless!

        • i think it could be a really good idea. like you said, who hasn’t re-evaluated an album down the road whether it be positive or negative, so why not have some positive double takes?? I understand that this is only the second double take, and maybe he was planning on doing some positive ones but who knows?

          The biggest problem i have with this article is that it is downright hateful. I feel like he just wants to go against popular opinion just do be different. I personally liked suburbs, but it didn’t make my top ten. I thought it was a little overhyped. But the way he goes about just bothers me. I dunno. I understand that it makes for good reading, and traffic. But personally it just not what i am a fan of.

  27. we need a double take on The National, period.

    -plus-

    “they heard me sing and then they told me to stop
    quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock”

    soooooo lame!!

  28. I think Arcade Fire should have trimmed a lot of fat from the album and made some of them into a B-sides collection. Radiohead’s uncanny ability to create an album listenable from beginning to end had a lot to do with relegation of their less flowing tracks to a B-side album. At the least, Modern Man, Rococo, Wasted Hours, Deep Blue should have gone there. Half-Lights 1 and 2 should have gone to the album’s end.

    I agree with the reviewer that way too much of this album’s music touches upon the same, kind of boring theme, reminding me of an adolescent Les Miserables wannabe with no cause to rally behind. I bought this album on vinyl when it came out, but it was a bad investment.

  29. What’s the point of having someone re-evaluate a band/album they already didn’t like in the first place?

  30. let’s re-evaluate double take:

    bad idea

  31. It’s a shame most people don’t know how to defend their own opinion. Let’s just complain about the column instead!

  32. Why don’t you highlight an album in your next article. You could do Josh Ritter – So Runs The World Away or Junip – Fields. Both were very underrated. I have them ranked at number 1 and 2 on my year end list. Well whatever you decide to revisit next I think (for the articles sake) people would really like to hear a more positive review.

  33. I’ll write the next double take for brandon here:

    Band X’s Album A
    “Lots of people liked this album, but I didn’t, and I still don’t. You’ve been double taked!”

  34. You are all a bunch assholes. LOL, seriously what the fuck, it’s just music! Get over it, like the album was really good and it was detailed and they lyrics were very good, don’t go hating on this because all the cool kids wanna hate!

    Also are you that bored? And what are your credentials ????

  35. This would have worked better if it was written by someone that initially liked the album (like whoever decided to place it at #2 on the year-end list) but looking back has found some flaws. This is just a review by someone who hated the album and band from the start. How is that a double take? Like someone said above, you could go back down the list and find flaws in any of the albums. Maybe it would be better to review some new albums that you actually like, instead of going back and cutting down something that everyone else liked to prove how cool you are. Just a thought…

  36. I stopped reading at nay.

  37. jesus, maybe you guys should do Double Take: Stereogum’s Readership.

    the knee-jerk defensiveness of some of these comments is adorable but really misguided. is it wrong to turn a critical eye upon the most recent album by an indie rock heavyweight? don’t tell me that CONTRA isn’t the 10 out of 10 slice of indie rock perfection I’ve been led to believe it is too!

    hey Stosuy, WAT R UR CREDENTIALS??!

    • Vampire Weekend: Still riding the coattails of Graceland-era Paul Simon.

    • Contra is an awful album. Biggest prank ever pulled on the indie music community.

      • Many of the comments I see on here are astounding.

        “Biggest prank ever pulled on the indie music community.”

        What a generally idiotic and grandiose statement! Contra is not an awful album, you just don’t like it. If I don’t care for an album I don’t spew out “IT FUCKING SUCKS IT’S AWFUL FUCK THOSE GUYS” -

        I say that I don’t like the album.

        Relax.

      • I refused to listen to Contra at first, thinking it was an overhyped album void of talent. Then I decided to give it a try over the summer and actually came out liking a lot of the songs

        • 100% in the same boat. seeing them last summer at a festival was the game-changer for me. they were awesome. and to think i almost bailed on their set to check out dam-funk… would’ve been a big mistake.

          “cousins” eventually became one of my favorite songs of 2010.

  38. “Musically, the songs also often feel tired and used. (When not straight-up annoying, a la “Rococo.”)”

    When the breakdown happens in that song, I lose my fucking shit.
    “rococo rococo rococo rococo ROCOCO!!

    • I’ll write the next eight double takes, if you’ll allow it.

      “A lot of people enjoyed Teen Dream, Age of Adz, Body Talk, Treats, Contra, Swan Lights, Gemini, and Halcyon Digest. Others did not.”

      • Hey so I didn’t mean to write that as a reply to the above post. Just pretend the arrow means “look at me, I’m important”

  39. I would say the lyrics are direct, not cliche or pretentious. At least you can say they are relatable. Don’t knock the themes – knock the execution.
    This review is pretty bitchy – I think this whole column is just a good scam way to jump on the backlash bandwagon.

  40. I actually considered the album to be the best one of the year, but, once December ended I began listening to Beach House’s Teen Dream much more and have come to the conclusion that it’s actually the best album of the year and even one of my all time favorites.

  41. I agree with most of what was said in the article. The Suburbs was one of my favourite albums of last year, but it does suffer from a lack of editing and some of the songs that grabbed me on the first few listens did get old pretty fast, especially Rococo and Modern Man.

    Having said that, tracks like The Suburbs, Suburban War, Mountains… and Wasted Hours have only gotten better with time and repeated, deeper listening.

    • what’s with all the rococco-bashing? i never was a big fan of the album, but always felt like rococco was one of the better songs (musically, that is; i’ll concede that the lyrics are pretty bad).

      also, my favorite track is definitely empty room, which people seem to be pretty ambivalent about… guess my tastes differ more from the majority than i thought.

  42. Brandon’s top 10 from last year…

    http://www.villagevoice.com/pazznjop/critics/2010/686058/

    1 Agalloch, Marrow of the Spirit
    Profound Lore Points: 10
    2 Swans, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky
    Young God Points: 10
    3 Deathspell Omega, Paracletus
    Norma Evangelium Diaboli/Season of Mist Points: 10
    4 Zola Jesus, Stridulum EP
    Sacred Bones Points: 10
    5 Thou, Summit
    Gilead Media Points: 10
    6 Salem, King Night
    Iamsound Points: 10
    7 Ludicra, The Tenant
    Profound Lore Points: 10
    8 Inquisition, Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm
    Hells Headbangers Points: 10
    9 Crystal Castles, Crystal Castles II
    Fiction Points: 10
    10 Titus Andronicus, The Monitor
    XL

    • Ahhhh, this list makes the re-reviews make more sense.

      • Seriously? How can you call something “tired” and “used” when that top 10 is ALL “tired” metal cliches and “used” riffs, nevermind almost no notions beyond a quarter-inch depth. Laughable.

        • agalloch, thou, deathspell omega, and ludicra are used and cliche? i admit the new swans isn’t very good. but, come on man, you won’t find music like any of those bands anywhere else. you are clearly not well versed in metal, calm down.

  43. Stosuy’s agenda is pretty clear with that list: not enough brutal drop-D riffage on The Suburbs for his taste. isn’t it enough that with his heavy brow and high forehead Win looks like he COULD be in a black metal band?!?

    • Well, he *is* from the brutal north….

      The thing is, I do listen to a lot of non-metal. (I listed a bunch of my favorite 2010 non-metal albums at the end of my Haunting The Chapel Top 50.) Or, to look backwards: In 2003 I reviewed Sufjan Stevens’ Michigan at Pitchfork, pushed for it to be Best New Music. I pitched that review, I wasn’t assigned it. I knew nothing about the guy at the time, just liked the music. I also did Pitchfork’s first National review in 2003. Again, I pitched this one because I liked the record a lot. That same year other favorites included Drudkh’s Forgotten Legends, Opeth’s Damnation, Xasthur’s The Funeral Of Being, a ton of Jewelled Antler releases, plenty of Wolf Eyes, the self-titled Comets On Fire album. Then in early 2004 I did the site’s first Joanna Newsom review (for Milk-Eyed Mender). Again, I knew little about her at the time, just liked the music a lot.

      I like music I like. It’s simple as that.

  44. I’m still waiting for another Double Take from the opposite opinion: Taking an album that wasn’t well received and that actually deserves a “Double Take” — like the MIA album. (even though Teqkilla is about as good as actual tequila. read: not at all)

    I will now continue waiting for the Salem double take. Because I REALLY REALLY want to hear Brandon’s thoughts on King Night, since I know he’s a big fan.

    Keep it up! Great column!

  45. Dear Brandon,

    I really, really, really, really love this column. I completely agree with the first two although that has nothing to do why I love this column so much. Most of music criticism is to just write the review, make the year end list, and then leave it alone. I really like the idea of reevaluating albums, and putting the world of music criticism in the spotlight. It’s necessary and I’m frankly surprised no one has done it before. There are a lot of albums I personally don’t agree with many music reviews and so far you have picked all of them. So for someone who is able to express my ideas, albeit with better skill, thank you.

    However, I feel this piece was more “Brandon’s review of the Suburbs” rather than a “double take” at the hype surrounding it, its initial reaction, whether it’s worthy of the praise, or an objective look at it again that forces your readers to react against the groupthink that happens occasionally in the music industry. Again, I agree with your point that The Suburbs does not deserve the praise it does. Arcade Fire made a living on passion filled music and their last album subjects itself to the same problem of the Suburbs, apathy. The heart in their new songs, compared to old, is missing.

    I haven’t read any of the comments for your other articles and I’m avoiding reading the one’s posted here because I don’t think they will be respectful, or thoughtful. But I want you to know, as a reader, I want you to succeed so I can keep enjoying your features. I guess that’s why I feel I need to let you know you may have lost sight on this last one. Not to criticize, since I could do no better, but because I do not want to see you fall off track. If you feel your next article loses some focus, try bringing it full circle back to the hype and reaction by the press, and why you disagree with that, not your opinion on the album as a whole. It will make your article seem less preachy and more informed.

    That being said, this feature doesn’t have to do recent albums either. Eventually, you will run out of recent albums to reevaluate, so why not do somewhat old ones? I remember Clap Your Hands Say Yeah had a debut album to much acclaim, and have been forgotten since. Most blogs even left them off their respective decade lists. Is this in need of a reevaluation? Did it deserve the initial acclaim? Has time decreased the quality of the album or how we view it?

    I’m not saying I want you to review this album but offer ideas you can hopefully bounce off. Every time I see this feature posted I gasp and designate time to read it intently. I look forward to whatever you may have in mind.

    -Your Fan

  46. I think saying that the lyrics are “high school poetry” is condescending. You’re suggesting that high school poetry is bad.

    I realize that you (Brandon) lean towards more ‘difficult’ music, like the Haunting the Chapel stuff and CocoRosie. That’s fine, I like some of that too. I know that you don’t want to come off as only liking weird shit, and that’s probably why you started this column by stating you like some of the ‘popular’ albums. But we know you lean towards that stuff.

    But what I don’t get is how you pick and choose which big rock album to praise. I think The Suburbs and High Violet hit all the same bases. Obsviously, the lyrical content is slightly different, but both records bring up the same emotions. They reach the same parts of my brain. And musically, they’re obviously pretty close.

    What I am trying to say is that I’m dubious of this “music is subjective’ argument. It’s a pretty big argument on most music blogs. And I think this column exists to prove the ‘subjective’ point. You’re in a position of power, writing for this blog, and so you can say: “Hey look, not everybody loves this album. Look at me, I’m a music critic on a popular music site and I don’t really like the Arcade Fire. Music IS subjective after all.”

    Anyways, all I’m saying is that I think it’s kind of bullshit. I honestly think that there is good music, bad music, and music in between. I think this album is clearly good music. And if you don’t like it, it’s because of some other reason, not because of the songs.

    In your case, it might be your personal taste. Your taste seems to lean towards metal and noise and outsider stuff, with the odd popular record thrown in. But I think there’s a difference between taste and good music.

    • I think it’s equally as important to get the message out there, not all writers for these blogs are unanimous. The qualification of liking “popular music” is necessary to demonstrate to the comments, just because he traditionally prefers more difficult music does not mean he is incapable of liking more popular things. Some people have a broad taste of just what you describe as “good” music. I know sometimes when I am dedicated to a band I still follow their music and probably think more highly of it than it actually is, such is fandom. The same thing happens for critics, they are people after all, which is more what the column is fighting against; this groupthink that does sometimes occur in the community.

      • Hey jtl, I made a comment regarding all of this above. I don’t just listen to “difficult” music. I have a tendency to love that stuff, true, but … For the hell of it, here’s my Top 25 of 2005, which included Agalloch, Prurient, Scott Walker, Celtic Frost, Brightblack Morning Light, Blut Aus Nord, The Knife, and Sunset Rubdown: http://pitchfork.com/features/staff-lists/6511-2006-individual-albums-lists/

        • Or if you want to view something more recent, go to my Haunting The Chapel Top 50 of 2010 and type search “non-metal”: http://stereogum.com/596411/haunting-the-chapels-top-50-albums-of-2010/franchises/haunting-the-chapel/ …. Antony, Perfume Genius, Glasser, Titus, Emeralds, Oneohtrix Point Never, Tamaryn, jj, Joanna Newsom, etc.

          • Well, thanks for that. But that’s not really the point I was trying to make.

          • You started by saying I have a tendency toward difficult music, right? I wanted to point out that that’s not necessarily the case. As far as the rest of your comment, you’re suspicious of the “music is subjective” argument — which you think is “bullshit” — but then go on to say that the National and Arcade Fire “reach the same parts of (your) brain… ” That’s pretty personal/subjective, no? Unless we all share your brain. Ditto this: “I honestly think that there is good music, bad music, and music in between. I think this album is clearly good music. And if you don’t like it, it’s because of some other reason, not because of the songs.” You’re arguing against your own point. Are you saying there’s some sort of objective math equation or formula out there that helps us decide if music’s “good” or “bad” or “in between”?

          • Actually yes. I think it’s a lot like math. My biggest point is that there is a difference between personal taste and good music. Admittedly, both The National and Arcade Fire suit my tastes, but I also think they are objectively good. This idea comes from Kant (which is really pretentious to drop here, I know). There’s no such thing as “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. There are good albums and bad ones and in between. Who decides? Learned individuals, experts, and maybe the test of time. Enough critics and listeners who know what they are talking about have already determined that this is a good album. You don’t like the Suburbs? That’s fine. It’s great actually, I believe in people discussing they’re personal tastes. But’s it’s an objectively good album. You just happen to not like it.

            I know that people will hate this. But I believe it. To hammer it home: You might not enjoy Shakespeare or Picasso, but you know it’s good. Same goes.

          • You have to admit, You’re arguing against the subjective nature of music while continuously referring to “taste” in music. Yet I guess we could both agree that if I released an album of violin chamber music (having never touched the instrument) it will not be good. objectively. But even then, what makes “good” is an idea based on standards set by society and culture, subjective yet widely accepted standards.

          • I keep refering to ‘taste’ because I’m trying to differentiate between taste and goodness. The enjoyment (or taste) of an album is subjective, the goodness of the album is not. I guess it’s not mathematical objectivity, but its objective through observation. If you look at music critics and avid listeners of indie rock (in other words, experts) it’s clear that the majority of them think this album is good. They know their shit, they think it’s good, therefore its good. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it.

            Go to metacritic.com to see my point. This album has got an 87 rating, based on a compilation of various critics ratings. Their are 3 middling reviews ( or 3 other Brandons), but for the most part its got a great score. The user rating is high too. This is an observational way of determining an objective goodness.

          • I guess the question is, how many critics would give an album a good rating, yet clearly not like the album? I don’t completely disagree with you, I understand Metal takes a lot of skill, but I don’t like it. On the other hand; you cite metacritic as a gauge of popular opinion to determine the album’s “goodness” (probably a better word i could use there). But don’t you think those opinions can change over time? collectively even? Arctic Monkeys received a decent 82 score with their ‘whatever people say…’, I’m speculating here, but I doubt they would receive a similar score today. If that were the case, then their music is subjectively good, or at least relative to it’s context. I think the most objective we can get is judging artists skill and technique based on generally accepted standards. even that gets messy.
            Btw, hope you’ve perceived this as a friendly discussion. Interesting questions anyway, this really gets to the core of music criticism.

    • “I need someone to tell me what is good” – jtl

      Double Take wouldn’t be needed if people made up their own minds instead of listening to whatever music sites told them to like. That said, IMO this album and MBDTF are not that good. Please keep doing feature

  47. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • Claiming someone has bad taste is only valid if their record collection contains the likes of Creed, 3 Doors Down, Nickelback, etc. They may have different taste, and I’ll agree with you, Brandon has different taste than me, but calling it “bad” is unfair. Even though I’ve disagreed with the first two, I still think Double Take is a great column. I love the discussion it has brought up. Re-evaluating music is just as important as the initial evaluation. It’s part of what makes this site so great; people can have ongoing discussions about different kinds of music and what makes music great/not so great. Keep up the great work Brandon.

  48. UH OH, Arcade Fire fans have raided the comment points system.

    This album, and Arcade Fire in general, is boring and derivative. Funeral had some good moments, but in general they’re pretty mediocre.

  49. I love that people can comment and justify that they like the album. i like the album. Unfortunately, some people just leave comments calling brandon a douche bag. Why are you wasting your time? people clearly like double take like someone else said earlier whether just for controversy or because they agree that an album was overrated. . These columns clearly are just trying to start a dialogue about these albums that have been overhyped or rated higher than they should have been. Was this album overhyped? yes. Was it overrated? I wouldn’t necessarily say that. I like that people have their opinions on here about whether they like the album or not, and if you think the author is wrong about disliking the album, go ahead and tell him why he’s wrong. If you’re going to leave a comment about how he’s dumb and that’s it, don’t even bother leaving a comment you look like an idiot.

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