The meat and potatoes of the band revolves around vocalist, songwriter, and Texas native Win Butler, and his Canadian wife, Régine Chassagne; she’s also a fellow singer who had previously studied jazz voice. Other members include Butler’s younger brother William who plays keyboard, Richard Parry who plays bass, Sarah Neufeld who plays violin, Jeremy Gara who plays drums, and Tim Kingsbury who plays lead guitar. That isn’t even taking into account the fact that they all contribute to a wide array of various other instruments as well; this includes the viola, cello, xylophone, french horn, accordion, hurdy-gurdy, glockenspiel(similar to the xylophone), and harp.
This is what makes Arcade Fire one of the best bands of the 21st century; their ability to incorporate such a rich and spacious sound that echoes the concert halls of 18th century orchestras. Look at like this: You must be doing alright as a band if you had the respect of an icon like David Bowie. Even so much so that David Bowie records a live album with you, and even imparts his vocals for one of your hit singles; now that’s the pinnacle of “making it.” So let’s get straight into their catalog of stellar music:
Being fresh off of their critical acclaimed debut album, Funeral, Arcade Fire decided to switch up their style a little bit and incorporate Americana themes in their follow-up record, Neon Bible. One can almost hear the Bruce Springsteen essence in a song like Windowsill, and it’s definitely a cold look at the effects of corporate America and how they easily influence people with the garbage they feed them through television. The mellow waves of each bowed instrument also sends a song like this into the musical cosmos.
As soon as they put out their current album, Reflektor, which featured Bowie on the title track, Arcade Fire already had three incredible albums under their belt; one could make the argument that two out of three of those albums are already well on their way to classic status. This beautifully extraterrestrial closer clocks in at eleven minutes, and is more along the lines of two separate pieces morphed into one. The first half plays out like a love letter, until the second half segues into some Brian Eno-inspired ambience.
8.) Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Arcade Fire had this conceptual theme throughout Funeral involving a neighborhood where a lot happens; each song unfolds like a coming-of-age story. This song’s plot deals with a power outage in the neighborhood where there are no adults to supervise the kids as they get into trouble; the lyrics paint the song as more of an emotional odyssey disguised as a cross between a John Hughes story and a pinch of the surreal. Plus, it’s the most rockin’ song of the four “Neighborhood’s.”
Don’t let the title of the song fool you; it isn’t what you think it’s about. It’s actually a real lovesick song about a man professing his regret and heartache over this woman who’s decided to call it quits with him; I’m sure everybody who’s ever been in a relationship can relate to the subject matter. What makes this tune so out of left field is it’s Berlin Trilogy-era Bowie influence, and the fact that it breaks new ground for Arcade Fire as far as textual harmonies are concerned; Reflektor harbored an organic flavor that wasn’t anything like their previous albums.
6.) No Cars Go
Released as a single off of Neon Bible, No Cars Go exemplifies the very template of Indie Rock that Arcade Fire masterfully brought into the Mainstream light. It has every quality of Heartland rock that’ll have you imagining yourself driving on the open road in a convertible with the top down. Arcade Fire also makes good use of an accordion that would’ve easily felt laughable in a song like this, but it doesn’t. And then there’s those Springsteen-esque croons towards the end that makes it all the more emotional.
This is probably one of the few standouts on Reflektor that shared glimpses of essential Arcade Fire when they weren’t constantly reinventing themselves with the avant-garde and greek mythology. It’s got every element that lifts every one of their songs to the vertex of pure vibrations; it’s all in the way Régine Chassagne lets her soft vocals spread their wings in the back of their intensely symphonic chorus. Before releasing it as a single, they debuted the song on Saturday Night Live; definitely one of their most exciting efforts.
4.) Modern Man
Time for some cuts off of their record, The Suburbs. This is one of their more unperturbed compositions, and it’s the kind of song to unwind to when it’s late and you’re pretty beat from a long, strenuous day of work. The lyrics speak on a very disillusioned level; there’s something disconsolate and nihilistic, but it’s still a thoughtful song that really makes you think.
3.) Ready To Start
This was perhaps their biggest single on The Suburbs, and it’s no surprise they chose this one. It has an irresistible bounce to it that really gets inside of your head and lingers well after you’ve listened to it, thus making you want to, yet again, play the song once more. That’s not taking anything away from the cryptic passages that really shows that one can make an easily accessible song with many layers to it. The following lines, All the kids have always known, that the emperor wears no clothes. But they bow down to him anyway, ’cause it’s better than being alone, really sums up those who are too afraid to think for themselves.
2.) Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Here’s yet another single from The Suburbs. The album is crammed with so many different varieties of great tunes, but this is one that is so colorful in it’s vibrant ode to the preservation of innocence in the middle of the hopeless existence of adulthood. It’s one of the few songs where Régine Chassagne bestowed her vocals, and she really brings the spirit of the song out of its shell. It’s overall sound is definitely reminiscent of 80’s New Wave and would fit right in with any number of those “Brat Pack” films of the time.
1.) Rebellion (Lies)
This little number from Funeral is without question, the song that defines Arcade Fire as a musical force to behold. It was one of four singles issued from the album, and it does its job by letting the world that a band like this DOES come around once in a long time to grace the public with a glimmer of hope that there IS still great music being recorded. Everything about this song, from the stringed arrangements to the dreamy, yet defiant poetics, really leaves a lasting impression; that dancing violin solo that creates a poignant adieu during the outro must be felt to fully understand the beauty of Arcade Fire.
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