Sometimes the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences gets it right. The Grammys are a weird beast. Just as with the Academy Awards where the Academy of Motion Pictures somehow takes in an entire year’s worth of silver screen action and spits it out in neat nomination fields, The Grammys see their members approach twelve months of physical and digital releases to deliver, in increasingly complex iterations, lists of those bands and artists they think deserve celebration. The politics behind the Grammys is never quite as hotly contested, breathlessly followed, as that of their cinema cousins but the ramifications of both for award winners continue to remain significant even where such industry back-slapping events are rapidly becoming fossils from another era. Where the public still put some stock in what industry insiders think about the music produced for the masses, one of those shiny, golden gramophones can mean big things in the right hands.
With many, like platinum-smashing, transatlantic-conquering, multi-award winning Adele, a best album nomination and a win to follow are only proper recognition of an album that slayed audiences and critics alike: the gramophone is a mere cherry on top of myriad accolades. For a band like Arcade Fire, who had the underground, sub-cultural kudos but not yet the mainstream acclaim to complement that before ‘The Suburbs’, the Album of The Year Grammy (and the #1 charting position that it was born out of) was more than an awareness of the current of popular opinion that accompanied it. Arcade Fire was effectively made a symbol of the popularisation of indie rock with their 2011 win but for once in recent history (not that Taylor Swift or the Dixie Chicks didn’t try their darndest), the suite of 16 songs that produced such a response were really worthy of the trophy.
Where albums are increasingly a thing of the past as mp3 releases, mixtapes and the concept of the video clip-assisted single takes on ever more significance, ‘The Suburbs’ is an album that I can happily listen to, intro to outro, through four tracks that have two parts to them and to the ceaselessly engimatic voice of Win Butler, until the awards people get their act together and offer up a total experience of such enthralling quality again. ‘Ready To Start’ is not the most obvious choice from the LP – a slow-burner whose chorus is demarcated from its verses only by a few high-pitched notes – but it has forever represented the potency of ‘The Suburbs’ in demonstrating how the texture of Win’s vocals, a driving guitar line, insistent piano and lyricism that is at once obviously personal and yet strangely familiar can absolutely captivate. As Win finally bursts out of his measured tone at 3’10″ to almost yell the titular refrain, the inverted, toned-down instrumentals highlight where Arcade Fire’s real talent lies: in executing fantastically rich ideas in such a restrained, thoughtful manner. There’s no point claiming that you were into them before anyone else was because recognition hasn’t ruined Arcade Fire. This is truly award-winning music.
Arcade Fire – Ready To Start