The only thing these two artists share – other than a tendency to alienate people – is my love. One had it from the start, the other snuck up and stole it. My two favorite records of 2010, reviewed in 2011 because time can’t diminish their power. Or, as Kanye puts it, “POWER.”
Arcade Fire’s Grammy upset gives me an excuse to play catch up. How AF lost to the Black Keys in two minor categories, then beat Em and Gaga for Album of the Year, is the sort of question you ask only if you believe the Grammies ever make a bit of sense. They don’t, but the right album won anyway. Go figure.
Arcade Fire: The Suburbs
Win Butler’s failure, over 16 songs in 60 minutes, to say anything concrete about the suburban landscape he evokes throughout is partly the point. This is ennui writ big. Madison Square Garden, Billboard Number One, Grammy Album of the Year big. No wonder people compare them to U2. But Butler has no use for Bono’s messiah robes. He’s a modest guy who thinks you’ve probably felt that ennui once or twice yourself. And if you haven’t, the sheer scale and force of the music will have you empathizing anyway. The most wistful arena rockers in the world – from Canada, naturally. A-
He gives a damn about a Grammy – deep down, he’s far too traditional a guy not to. Thankfully, he’s still a little too dangerous to win the big one (though this decent comeback album, released on the heels of 2009’s deplorable one, did net him his fifth rap album trophy – not bad for a guy who’s released six albums). “Kill You” dangerous? No. Dangerous in that ribald, self-effacing way that’s always been his great strength? You bet. He tells us on “Talkin’ 2 Myself” that, around the time he was falling asleep stoned in McDonald’s parking lots, he also somehow retained the good sense to think twice before dissing Kanye and Lil Wayne, both of whom he’s sure would have handed him his ass. I miss his sense of humor as much as the next longtime fan. But if he’s smart enough to see that Relapse sucked, he’s smart enough to know where to go from here. B+