Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Reference 160M Amplifier (February 2019)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)

Columbia 88985447852
Format: CD

Musical Performance

Sound Quality

Overall Enjoyment

Arcade Fire’s fifth album, Everything Now, follows a gap of four years since Reflektor, which brought in LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy as coproducer and upped the quotients of dance beats and electronics. At more than 85 minutes, Reflektor was too long -- even favorable reviews called out its length and lack of stylistic focus. Still, it was a typically ambitious outing for a band that’s never been content to simply repeat a formula.

Everything Now clocks in at 47:11 and takes as its theme consumerism. To that end the band created a mock Facebook page for the album, and parodies of such Web phenomena as fitness ads. The lyric sheet resembles a color insert for a drugstore. At the top of the sheet, near an Everything Now logo -- in fact, as printed, the title of each track looks like a corporate logo -- are quoted lines from the title track that the band clearly feels tie the album together: “I Need It. I Want It. I Can’t Live Without.”

Arcade Fire brought in Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk and Steve Mackey of Pulp to help produce Everything Now, and one of the three versions of the title track included sounds very much like ABBA, in the way that Daft Punk, on Random Access Memories, evoked memories of such 1970s hit makers as Chic. The upbeat arrangement rubs up against lyrics filled with restless discontent.

Arcade Fire

“Signs of Life” also takes its inspiration from the ’70s, with a bass line and fuzz guitar that bring back memories of Curtis Mayfield’s music for Superfly. As in the title track, the words convey a sense of emptiness in a land of plenty. “Looking for signs of life,” Win Butler sings, “Looking for signs every night / but there’s no signs, so we do it again.”

“Creature Comfort” pits a menacing, distorted synth line against a more palatable, bell-toned keyboard line. The keyboard washes and other effects give this track a pleasant, ear-friendly tone undercut by the subject: suicide. “Infinite Content” appears twice: first as a punk rave-up, then as a loping, faux-country tune. “Chemistry” plugs into my memories of David Essex’s “Rock On” and, more successfully than any other track on Everything Now, conveys how marketing equates consumer goods with fulfillment.

In “Put Your Money on Me,” loopy synths suggest an even more obsessive Tame Impala, the psychedelic band from Western Australia -- the song bounces along while still adhering to the album’s theme. The album’s most emotionally engaging song is the epic (6:29) “We Don’t Deserve Love,” filled with lush synths and rich vocals.

Arcade Fire

Everything Now is sonically rich and an impressive achievement, but it’s not an easy listen. Though Arcade Fire has never been lighthearted, their music and lyrics were usually well matched and the band’s own, even when other influences were audible. But the album feels too deliberate and studied. Thomas Bangalter probably helped the group nail ABBA’s sound in the title track, but when Daft Punk used influences from the ’70s in Random Access Memories, I could hear their affection for those artists. Arcade Fire treats them as aspects of an aural doctoral thesis.

A band that uses the Web to overhype an album about consumerism may lack a sense of humor, and that’s the one thing Everything Now doesn’t have. If Arcade Fire had injected into these songs some of the wit that went into the design of the lyric sheet, the result would have been more enjoyable. It’s easy to be impressed by the amount of work and skill that went into Everything Now; it’s not easy to enjoy the results.

. . . Joseph Taylor