The Wilderness Downtown

There’s no doubt in my mind that Arcade Fire’s new album, The Suburbs, is the best album of 2010. From start to finish it is pure musical gold. Even the toughest critics have compared its ambitious scope, thematic unity, warm production and songwriting excellence to such landmark albums as Radiohead’s OK Computer. I’ve been listening to it for a month straight, and it’s still getting better with every listen. I can’t wait to see them perform it at the MTS Centre in two weeks.

As if things needed to get any better, the band has recently released a very inventive video for the song “We Used to Wait.” Because it’s so unique, it can’t be embedded, so you’ll have to click here to see it. Arcade Fire partnered with Google to make the video. It asks you first to input your home town, which is then featured, via Google Street View, in the video! For best playback you’ll have to do as the disclaimer asks and close other windows and programs. This is because once the video loads a whole bunch of windows will pop up; just let them do so, it’s part of the multi-frame presentation of the video. As the video plays they’ll switch back and forth automatically.

Besides the fantastic video, another reason I write about this song is because its lyrics really resonate with me. Win Butler reflects on life gone by, on the past, and on the rush, instantaneousness, and lack of meaning in modern life. This manifests itself in his regret at never sitting down and writing a loved one a letter to tell them how much he loves them. “Don’t is seem strange,” he wonders aloud, “how we used to wait for letters to arrive?” He reminds listeners of the joy of waiting, of investing time and energy in something, and of the simple yet very symbolic act of sitting down with ink and paper and intentionally and meaningfully communicating with a loved one. Here’s a portion of the lyrics of “We Used to Wait”:

I used to write
I used to write letters
I used to sign my name
I used to sleep at night
Before the flashing light settled deep in my brain
But by the time we met
By the time we met the times had already changed
So I never wrote a letter
I never took my true heart, I never wrote it down
So when the lights cut out
I was left standing in the wilderness downtown
Now our lives are changing fast
Hope that something pure can last
Don’t it seem strange
How we used to wait for letters to arrive
But what’s stranger still
Is how something so small could keep us alive
Sometimes it never came
I’m still moving through the pain

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