Released two years ago today, Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" was the best album of 2010, and the best album that this young decade has had to offer. For me it will always be connected to a time in my life that was, shall we say, a bit on the stressful side.
For a little over seven years (until January of this year) I worked for a non-profit Association here in my hometown of Sacramento. There was a time when I thought it could be the place that I would retire from, even though that milestone is at least another decade away. But then one of those things happened that proves the old adage (which was said, but perhaps not originated by, John Lennon) that life is what happens when you make other plans. Our Executive Director, ambushed in a television interview, was forced to retire after, among other things, it became known that he had used the Association's credit card to obtain cash advances at casinos. There were other things which I won't go into detail here, but suffice to say that it was not a pleasant experience to learn things like this about someone that you had known for over 25 years and considered a friend, and even mentor.
All of that happened in late July, and it's fair to say that the 2-3 months which followed that fortnight were the most stressful 2-3 months of my life. I look back on it now, and am thankful that the feeling with which I awoke every morning - a feeling that I'd describe as feeling helpless, caught in the middle of an unending scream - finally dissipated and eventually went away for good (although there are flashbacks from time to time).
So in the midst of all this, Arcade Fire went and released what I knew from the very first listen was a classic album. But for a while, I almost didn't want to listen to it. If this series has proved anything, it's that when you care about music the way that I do, songs, albums and artists become inexorably linked to the memories of one's lifetime. There are songs that have appeared on this list, songs that are 40 years old, still transport me in time back to the period when I first heard them. So, did I really want that to happen with an album that I knew was going to become one of my all-time favorites?
In the end, I couldn't resist, so I made the songs on the album my weapons. At those moments when things would get a little rough, when stuff was really running 'round my head, I'd just turn them up louder. Especially the two fast ones - "Month of May" and "Ready to Start." I'd listen to them over and over, and for a brief moment, all would be right with the world.
"Ready to Start," Arcade Fire - from the summer of 2010.