Music Releases 05-06-22
WE is the new album from Canadian rock band Arcade Fire. This is the sixth Arcade Fire studio album, and is made up of seven songs that speak to this moment with unique directness. Written, recorded, and released during a critical historical juncture, they are divided into two distinct sides, “I” and “WE.” If the “I” side of the record evokes and embodies our holed-up anxiety and lack of physical connection, the “WE” side captures the excitement of new possibilities and the elevating thrill of committing to one another socially and personally. Produced by Nigel Godrich, Win Butler & Régine Chassagne, WE is a 40 minute epic as much about the forces that threaten to pull us away from the people we love, as it is inspired by the urgent need to overcome them.
From the anthemic “Virginia (Wind In The Night),” an ode to Russell’s native state to which he’s recently relocated (“If it was solely up to me, I’d live her for the rest of my life,” he says), to the minimal but momentous “Tiebreaker,” Every Shade of Blue showcases The Head and the Heart’s unique ability to dip its toes into a variety of musical genres. It’s the band’s knack for supreme melody, however, that remains a constant. And it’s why many of the songs on Every Shade of Blue, including the slow-rolling title track, “Every Shade of Blue,” which Russell says has “a Sinatra vibe,” are undeniable pop-radio missiles. The band’s ability to create music that appeals to listeners’ common denominator, Russell says, is something he not only won’t shy away from but is immensely proud of.
Ukulele Songs comprises a fine mixture of original material penned by Vedder that he initially performed live, alongside vintage classics and standards. A recast, uke-driven version of "Can't Keep," which originally appeared as the opening track on Pearl Jam's hard-charging November 2002 album Riot Act, opens the proceedings, while newer-bred original songs like the resigned lament of "Sleeping By Myself," the charming love orbit of "Satellite," the hopeful brightness of "Light Today," and the instrumental interlude "Waving Palms" all set the table for the 35-minute album.
Guest vocalists appear on a pair of key Ukulele tracks, both of them fine covers of notable standards. First, Glen Hansard (The Frames, Once) adds his Irish folk DNA to "Sleepless Nights," which was written by Felice and Boudreaux Bryant and remade by The Everly Brothers in 1960, in addition to later being covered by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Patty Loveless, and Elvis Costello.
Second, Cat Power lends her passionate tone to "Tonight You Belong To Me," a jazz standard written in 1926 by lyricist Billy Rose and composer Lee David. This track has also been subsequently covered by the likes of Frankie Laine, Patience and Prudence, and Dottie West. Versions of "You Belong To Me" were also recently featured in the acclaimed 2019 film drama Blackbird and in an episode of the 2020 HBO horror-drama series Lovecraft Country.
The LP's other noteworthy covers include stirring takes on Billy Rose and Edward Eliscu's "More Than You Know," Michael Edwards and Bud Green's "Once In A While," and the album-closing reading of Fabian Andre, Wilbur Schwandt, and Gus Kahn's "Dream A Little Dream."
Produced by Eddie Vedder and Adam Kasper (Foo Fighters, Soundgarden), Ukulele Songs peaked at No. 4 on the U.S. Billboard 200, hit No. 2 on the U.S. Top Rock Albums on Billboard, and achieved Gold status in Canada.