Key Tracks: “Hero Brother,” “Sprinter Fire”
It’s been three long years since Sarah Neufeld’s primary band has released an album, so the sporadically-overworked violinist of Arcade Fire decided to work solo. The result is a relaxed-sounding album that falls nicely in between traditional performance classical and indie rock experimentation. The album barely has any other sounds than Neufeld’s violin, accompanied only by keyboards and occasional vocal rhythms.
Neufeld never overworks herself like she does on some Arcade Fire tracks, instead taking a minimalistic approach to her songs. Nearly every song is just Neufeld with some slight music in the background, and in some moments everything drops out altogether. Her playing is often slower but experimental, finding just the right moment for a violin shriek or a repeated sequence that would sound very out of place in a traditional orchestra. There is a subdued element to the album, even if Neufeld’s playing doesn’t always sound like it.
I will say that I am not sure what the target audience for this release is. Arcade Fire die-hards like myself might enjoy it based on principle (go Sarah!), but it is not by any means an album for people just looking for indie rock. It is strictly instrumental and classical-inspired, resembling a school recital but on a grand scale. Fans of pre-Stravinsky classical music might not eat it up either, given its tendency not to shy away from rough rhythms. But it is a good listen, even if its audience is kind of a niche. Win Butler said he’d retire from music at 30, so if he actually holds true to that word, maybe we can get some more solo work from Sarah. “Hero Brother” is a solid instrumental album, with just enough experimentation to make it an entertaining, genre-blending work.
-By Andrew McNally