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QUARANTINE THE PAST: Anatomy of a Song #1

reginechassagne QUARANTINE THE PAST: Anatomy of a Song #1
Of course, with only two official WTP blog posts behind my belt (one being a touching mini-biography of my favorite Wu-Tang hero, and not particularly insightful or beneficial to the music community as a whole) I feel as if it is necessary to, again, burrow deeper into a subcategory of a subcategory.  Hence, I propose a weekly installment to accompany my traditional posts–which will hopefully be picking up in frequency in the coming days.  Anatomy of a Song will be a sub-section of my blog dedicated to dissecting influences from popular songs I find particularly striking or rich in texture and history.  Any track that strikes me as particularly relevant to popular independent culture will hopefully appear here, in a tragic glory, being relentlessly ransacked by an aptitude for analysis.

The first track I’ve chosen for this segment is “Sprawl II” by Arcade Fire.  The track is a highlight from the act’s fantastic August release, The Suburbs, and features the band’s quirky and oftentimes nearly insane Regine Chassagne on lead vocals.  This track is one of many that have inspired this segment, mostly as it comes from several different, yet distinct areas in both recent and more dated music.

On every Arcade Fire album, Chassagne occupies at least one track as the lead contributor.  This song is striking, though, in its difference not only to Regine-fronted tracks like “In the Backseat” and “Haiti,” but to the majority of the group’s other material; The Suburbs may dabble in dance influence, but here the tone and resounding effect of the synth reaches an incredible area.  For some reason, I have been unable to shake the notion that this song sounds much like  “Heartbeats” by The Knife, rather–a sped-up, more-polished, and more-insightful version.  Arcade Fire experiments with electronic elements in a careful fashion, ensuring that everything is tasteful and never dreadfully cheesy; listeners should be able to spot that the group’s inspiration could easily come from newer electronic/synth tunes, but is a more tasteful approach.

Of course, if one looks at modern electronic, it’s nearly ripped directly from older things. Not only do the vocals reside in a higher range, but the guitar seems to reverberate in a similar fashion to 1978′s “Heart of Glass.”  Structurally, the songs’ bridges seem kind of similar in purpose and certainly, though Arcade Fire had no intention of tearing any elements piece-for-piece, a resounding amiable quality is apparent in every aspect of “Sprawl II.”  The track also possess an underlying ABBA sound, but that’s just shameful….I’m not going to go there.

My favorite element of Regine’s performance on the track has to be the high-highs and dramatic lows of her vocal line.  She neither panders nor flounders; it’s golden, truly.  As far as female vocalists go, none have as striking a grasp of their range as Kate Bush, and I feel as if the majority of singing on “Sprawl II” channels this–shrill tendencies included.
(Okay, or maybe I just love Kate Bush; get over it, I’m a woman.)

It would be hard to properly analyze this track without also giving credit to the serious Cranberries vibe.  While the traditional Regine performance possesses at least a minute amount of quivering, dismal, slow delivery.  The track may be nearly all electronic, but it still has a quasi-shoegaze gleam that mixes gorgeously with early-nineties alternative rock.

“Sprawl II” is the perfect example of why music is progressing in a positive fashion.  As underground music grows further away from genre-constraints of the early 00s and into a more accepting region of thought, it is capable of integrating and reinventing so many classic elements–fundamentally, redefining music as a whole.

Cassandra Gillig.

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