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The Essential Arcade Fire

By ; August 2, 2012 at 12:35 PM 

5: No Cars Go – Neon Bible

What started as a promising outline on the EP became a full-fledged showstopper on the band’s second LP. Nervous wavering guitar and shimmering strings hover over a driving rhythm section. The track builds to an epic, choir-driven coda that reaches spectacular heights. Listen closely to hear the band experimenting with some electronic undertones—an element that would become a bigger part of the next album.

4: Rebellion (Lies) – Funeral

A rally cry for insomniacs. With a strong rhythm section, robotic drums, a steady bass line, and undulating piano, “Rebellion” shows Arcade Fire’s mastery of the non-melodic. Punctuated shouts rev up the intensity and delicate string arrangements accent the song. The call-back cries of “lies” stay in listeners heads well after the song is over.

3: The Suburbs – The Suburbs

“The Suburbs” is a deceptively brilliant song. It hits listeners with a guise of cheeriness, the result of a laidback shuffle, lighthearted piano, bouncing bass, and acoustic guitar. A closer listening reveals darker themes of suburban reflections. Win Butler unleashes his falsetto as well as some of the best lyrics he’s ever written, singing:


“So can you understand?

Why I want a daughter while I’m still young

I wanna hold her hand

And show her some beauty

Before this damage is done


But if it’s too much to ask, it’s too much to ask

Then send me a son”

Despite its simplicity, it never drags during its five minutes. Ultimately, “The Suburbs” proves that Arcade Fire can create beautiful and simple melodic tunes.

2: Wake Up – Funeral

The port of entry for most listeners, “Wake Up” was most likely the first Arcade Fire song you ever heard. A huge choir propels the song through distorted guitar and pounding drums. The didactic number is enormous as it is catchy; it is one of those songs that inspires immense camaraderie among listeners, whether singing along at a concert with thousands of others or with your best friends at a party—you can feel the energy surging through the band and listeners.

Appearing in commercials, feature films, and sports games, as well as making excellent fodder for a capella groups around the nation, “Wake Up” is a more indie version of “Seven Nation Army.”

1: Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) – Funeral

Perhaps a controversial choice, but “Tunnels” has all the elements of a great Arcade Fire song: a head-bobbing rhythm section, lyrics that harken back to an imperfect past, a seamless blend of instruments, and a cathartic coda.

The first song on the band’s first — and greatest — album, Funeral, begins serene and wintery before trancelike drums grab listeners. A catchy canon played on both piano and guitar stays ever-present in the song. Butler’s voice sounds shrill with emotion throughout, singing some of the band’s best lyrics. “Sometimes we remember our bedrooms and our parents’ bedrooms and the bedrooms of our friends” is a unique twist on a common lyrical theme (reflecting on childhood) and starting the song with “and” speaks to Arcade Fire’s bold confidence.

So there you have it…at least until 2013 when the fourth Arcade Fire album is set to drop. Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know below in the comments.

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


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