Monday, 9 September 2013

Arcade Fire: Top 10 Songs


It's been two years since the Grammy's Album of the Year was won by Arcade Fire's The Suburbs. All the belated 'who the fuck are Arcade Fire?' memes are gone; they were far more effective than last year’s BRIT Awards, when 'who the fuck is Cat Power' took over. The independents have been included at big name awards for a number of years now, but they rarely take any award home for their efforts of social confusion. This year will see the release of their fourth album Reflektor. Go through the three album discography, come back, and then think about how the Canadian troop can maintain their quality recordings. Whatever the outcome of Arcade Fire's next two months, we'll still have a soft spot for their decade defining albums.



10. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)


Key lyrics: "They heard me singing and they told me to stop, quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock." 

Win Butler rarely lets his misses and keyboardist Régine Chassagne sing lead on Arcade Fire songs. She's done her fair bit of good, as you'll see her pop up later on this list. Chassagne delivers a spectacular vocal on this track, answering her critics instantly with the tracks opening lyrics: "They heard me singing and they told me to stop, quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock." Following in the footsteps of The Suburbs suburban theme, Chassagne mentions: "Sometimes I wonder if the world's so small, that we can never get away from the sprawl," sprawl meaning low populated areas.



9. Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)




Key lyrics: "Ice has covered up my parents' hands, don't have any dreams, don't have any plans."

Based on Chassagne's experiences in Montreal during the North American ice storm of 1998, "Neighborhood #3" has been purposely left unanswered. It's an ambiguous track that can be seen differently. There's the 'no hope' factor of life that plays in with the albums theme Funeral, and then there's the more sinister imagery with lyrics like: "And the power's out in the heart of man, take it from your heart, put in your hand." However you decide to interpret this song, its importance in Arcade Fire's discography will last a lifetime.



8. No Cars Go


Key lyrics: "Between the click of the light and the start of the dream."  

Originally found on the Arcade Fire EP, "No Cars Go" is an instantly recognisable indie rock song. Taken from 2007s Neon Bible, the re-recorded version lightens up the lo-fi demo take. Instead of Neutral Milk Hotel esque instrumentation, Arcade Fire have recorded it with more, better, and needed skill. It’s one of Arcade Fire's more simple songs, taking on a standard structure with an extended introduction. It makes for a poignant back album track.



7. The Suburbs


Key lyrics: "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."

The opening track and title track from Arcade Fire's 2010 third album includes some of Butler's best vocal work, especially on the refrain: "Sometimes I can't believe it, I'm movin' past the feeling." He sings with such passion, energy, that the listeners instantly understand his struggles. This is another basic Arcade Fire song at heart, in structure, and in spirit. When all the strings, percussion and backing vocals come together, the effects are astonishingly beautiful. The essence of strings when Butler sings about wanting offspring, it's purely affectionate vocals.



6. Neighborhood #2 (Laika) 


Key lyrics: "When daddy comes home you always start a fight, so the neighbors can dance in the police disco lights." 

The second instalment of Neighborhood on Arcade Fire's magnificent debut album Funeral is one to remember. Butler sings: "Alexander, our older brother set out for a great adventure, he tore our images out of his pictures, he scratched our names out of all his letters, our mother should have just named you Laika!" He speaks of the suburban low key lifestyle of people, and how one, Alexander, broke out of it. Mentioning Laika (the Russian space dog) suggests an overreaction, or boosted opinion of leaving the close knit community to do something different. A fantastic song, sung by Butler and Chassagne in high pitch childlike accents, capturing the essence of the lyrics.



5. Keep The Car Running


Key lyrics: "Every night my dream's the same, same old city with a different name."   

Arcade fire's powerful "Keep The Car Running" has regularly been suppressed by critics and fans as the band's best work. Indeed, this track takes all the kooky weird instrumentalism of an indie rock band and throws it together with a Tom Waits styled lyrical masterpiece. Butler confuses the listener with interpretations as to what this song could be about. Quite frankly, it's better left open. This is one of Arcade Fire's masterpieces that sounds far more interesting and fun live, which is why there’s a live video above.





4. Wake Up


Key lyrics: "If the children don't grow up, our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up. We're just a million little god's causin' rain storms turnin' every good thing to rust. I guess we'll just have to adjust."

"Wake Up" is the sound of Funeral. Arcade Fire's early career will be remembered for making this epic song, for many reasons. First, the thumping guitar drone, second, the dreary vocal, third, the vocal refrain, fourth, popular culture. "Wake Up" has phenomenal instrumental arrangements and even better vocal delivery. It's a two part song, the former being a hazardous rousing track with hope and fulfilment, the latter is a funky piano arrangement with an even higher pitched Butler vocal. "Wake Up" was the first sign of Arcade Fire's world domination... It all traces back to this anthem.



3. Haiti


Key lyrics: "In the forest we are hiding, unmarked graves where flowers grow. Hear the soldiers angry yelling, in the river we will go."

Chassagne pays homage to her mother country Haiti with Arcade Fire's soft touch from Funeral. "Haiti" is one of the few Arcade Fire songs that standout as a living entity. It takes Chassagne's emotional vocal delivery to see the message as clear as a human being. Haiti has a horrid history, and Chassagne makes reference to that: "Guns can't kill what soldiers can't see." The imagery of Chassagne's motherland combined with a cheerful instrumental makes "Haiti" standout among giants on Funeral.



2. Rebellion (Lies)


Key lyrics: "People say that you'll die, faster than without water. But we know it's just a lie, scare your son, scare your daughter."

Butler's lyricism is often misjudged. He purposely leaves themes wide open so the listener can relate in any specific way. They don't have to relate the same way as Butler, as just feeling something from the lyrics, from the song, is enough in the eyes of Butler. "Rebellion (Lies)" is the calmest and most baroque protest song of the 00s. Butler speaks of an answer to avoid falling down a life pit. The above lyrics play towards a baptism related metaphor. His lyrics are rousing, pushing the listener to question, as the title suggests - "Rebellion (Lies)". It's the same as saying 'don't believe everything you read', just with more elements of rebellious attitude towards society. This track is right up here on this list for its theme, the magnificent Velvet Underground piano homage and the uplifting chord progressions. Fitting to Funeral's dull neighbourhood theme.



1. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)

 

Key lyrics: "You change all the lead, sleeping in my head. As the day grows dim, I hear you sing a golden hymn." 

"Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" is the first track on Arcade Fire's debut album Funeral. Like "The Suburbs", "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" becomes the pedestal for the latter tracks. Listening to Funeral in full is an experience, however if you just want that summary, then "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" is your best bet. Butler speaks nostalgic childhood references. It's a love story in development, waiting for the finale that never quite comes. It's the first epic Arcade Fire song that can be considered an anthem. The build-up is incredible with fitting piano accompaniment. It leaves the listener wanting more, more Arcade Fire, and that's what they've we've had since 2005. 
~Eddie

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