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The Essential Arcade Fire

By ; August 2, 2012 at 12:35 PM 

10: Keep The Car Running – Neon Bible

A quick-moving number with strong Bruce Springsteen influences and a healthy does of hurdy gurdy. The track contains so much forward momentum that it’s impossible not to move along with every mandolin strum, handclap, or drum hit. “Keep The Car Running” has such a rapport with musicians that Springsteen and Dave Grohl have both covered the song.

9: Headlights Look Like Diamonds – Arcade Fire

Off their debut EP, this track showcases the band’s dual vocals as well as the potential of future Chassagne-led songs. The band’s promise emanates off the track, from the song’s lyrical themes of suburbia to its intense flameout ending. What truly makes this track essential Arcade Fire listening is that Win Butler and Régine Chassagne wrote “Headlights” on their first date (cue the collective “aww”), setting the foundation for everything to come.

8: Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) – The Suburbs

Chassagne leads this track—Arcade Fire’s most electronic number to date. Her voices and bright synths harken back to Cyndi Lauper and a generation of 1980s female singers. While the track is unconventional for the band, the lyrics hit their favorite theme of dreary suburban sprawl with its “dead shopping malls.”

7: Ready To Start – The Suburbs

As Arcade Fire played this song immediately after winning the Grammy for Album of the Year, to many “Ready To Start” serves as a celebratory encore of the triumph of quality music over the Top 40 brain drain. The lyrics are as universal as they get, speaking of the post-relationship awkwardness of exes trying to be “just friends,” one of the few times Arcade Fire sings of love. “Ready To Start” is catchy and accessible done right.

6: Neighborhood # 3 (Power Out) – Funeral

“Power Out” blazes like a fire on a chilly winter’s night with a steady—pounding drum beat and frantic guitar. The song’s top moment starts at 2:48 when strings crescendo and spiral uncontrollably before being engulfed back into the song. Butler sings at his most unnerved and his cold shouts jar listeners. “Power Out” proves that there’s beauty in destruction.

[Intro][15-11][10-06][05-01]


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