Pioneering Sounds: Arcade Fire
Of the art rock that grew out of early 2000s indie rock culture, Arcade Fire is arguably the best. Our maybe, they’re just my favorite. Indie rock tends to either be not listenable enough for the mainstream, have a strong DIY approach, or it clutches onto the identity of being “indie” as a manner of confirming its own authenticity. Arcade Fire has always sounded like something else entirely, though. Their music stands apart by having a tendency to write infectious tunes without losing that indie sound.
It is hard say if there is only one good album to suggest as an entry point when exploring Arcade Fire’s music. Their music has so much to offer the listener that it might be more important to ask what you are looking for from an album than which one is the best. Between their five albums, their music can cater to many distinctive music tastes.
If you are just looking for that indie sound, it might be best to use either of their first two albums as your entry point. Both Funeral and Neon Bible are great indie style albums. The only difference being that their second album, Neon Bible, has a more polished and mature sound than its predecessor. They are a band that has grown and evolved from album to album and although it’s hard to say there were mistakes that needed to be corrected on Funeral, they certainly did learn from the experience of making it to be able to create a better product the second time around. You might even be surprised as to how many of the songs off of these two albums you already know. Movies, TV shows and advertisements have all used numerous tracks off these albums over the years.
If you just want a solid album, there is no question that the first thing you should listen to is The Suburbs. The theme of the album is quite unique. While bands like Radiohead were singing with irony and sarcasm about the frustrations of modern life, Arcade Fire approached this feeling in a different way completely. They use the concept of the “suburbs” as a running metaphor for the longing society feels for the things from their youth that they’ve lost. These are “things” that we all trying to rediscover as adults. If this subtle, yet gut wrenching, metaphor wasn’t enough, the quality of the music is some of the best produced since the time of the Beatles. Listener beware, if you start here, just know when you explore their other albums The Suburbs is hard to top.
If you want something kind of artsy, then you might want to give Reflecktor a try. After the near perfection of The Suburbs, Arcade Fire likely had to make a similar decision that Radiohead made when deciding how to follow up The Bends or Ok Computer. Both albums are so good, how do you follow them up? You can try to catch lightning in a bottle twice, or ignore the success of the prior album by trying something completely different. Reflector is darker and full of mystery with the bonus of a David Bowie cameo. The album is a different and much more artsy approach for the group, yet, the title harkens back to an earlier song, Neon Bibles’s “Black Mirror.” Perhaps they are unrelated but certain lyrics in Reflecktor do cast similar mental images to the black mirror found on Neon Bible. Both are reflective surfaces that the band shrouds in mystery.
If none of these sound appealing, then perhaps their latest album is the right one for you. Everything Now is a drastic switch from the group’s usual indie sound into a more mainstream aesthetic. Listen closely and you’ll hear numerous nod’s to ABBA. True to form though, the music is deceivingly bubbly and catchy and in tune with radio friendly hits of today, the lyrics are much more cynical of modern society. If you listen close, the lyrics begin to reveal that they are using the format of pop music to criticize it and pop culture in general. Lovers of their indie sound might be turned off, but it is a very accessible entry point if you want to discover their music and aren’t sure where to start. It is pop, but with a twist.
If you are interested in checking out the music of Arcade Fire, the Seekonk Library can get a hold of any album you might be interested in. Locally we can borrow from over 70 libraries in the SAILS Network and if need be we can try other Networks in Massachusetts and beyond. You can even try out our digital music service: Freegal!
Pioneering Sounds is also a discussion group at the Seekonk Library. Join us on April 17th at 6 PM for our discussion on Arcade Fire’s seminal album, The Suburbs. For more information visit www.seekonkpl.org or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
This program is offered FREE to the public, no registration required.