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Only five years ago I was somewhat despondent about the state of rock music. Relatively little exciting new music was being produced compared with previous decades in the history of rock. But the past few years has seen an explosion of really fine bands from all over the planet, not merely from around the U.S. and England, but in every area of Europe and, as in the case of Arcade Fire, Canada. Most of these bands tend to fall into either of two categories: back to roots bands (usually European, where they go back almost to garage roots, and bands that synthesize much of the history of rock to create their own unique mixture. Arcade Fire clearly belongs to the latter. Like a band like Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire constantly reminds you of other bands. Most frequently I'm reminded of the Pixies and Talking Heads, but almost as often I hear echoes of Roxy Music, Joy Division, or even David Bowie and Brian Eno.

As anyone knows who has heard anything at all about this album, it was produced shortly after members of the band suffered the deaths of several family members in less than a month. This clearly gives the album not merely its title, but a lot of its urgency and focus. The album doesn't, however, deal with death (like Lou Reed's LOVE AND MAGICK does, for instance) but with love and life. The heart of the album is the quartet of the songs that share the title "Neighborhood." They take up four of the first five tracks on the album, and each one is utterly splendid in its own way. I might have a slight preference for the first one, subtitled "Tunnels," but if you ask me on a different listening I might opt for another. The album hardly slows down after that quartet of songs is finished (and for the record, the 3rd cut, "Une Année Sans Lumière," is one of the stronger cuts on the album, and the one that immediately follows the final "Neighborhood" song, "Crown of Love," is another amazingly strong number. If the album fades at all (and compared to most other recent rock albums, even good ones, it doesn't), it is near the end. But even then, the next to last cut on the album, "Rebellion (Lies)," is as good as anything the album contains.

One thing that marks nearly every song on the album is the wonderful way that they employ contrasts. Most songs build rather slowly, to build up to a glorious, powerful crescendo. Many of the songs have a kind of majesty that many heavy metal bands, for instance, strive for, but rarely achieve. One thing, however, that sets them apart from many of the bands I mentioned as possible influences is that they have a very powerful, dynamic rhythm section. I absolutely adore the Pixies, but they almost intentionally submerge the rhythm section in the music. In Arcade Fire, despite all of the musical trappings, the drums and bass propel the song forward, and in the many songs where the tension and tempo build, they always lead the charge. Just listen to "Rebellion (Lies)" and watch how the rhythm section controls the song.

This is easily one of the best debut albums in recent years, and I eagerly await their next album. As I write this review, I am only a few days away from seeing these guys live in Chicago at the Logan Square Theater.

Note: Big thanks to my brother for calling my attention to these guys.
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VINE VOICEon May 25, 2005
My impression of many of the negative reviews of this album - and some of the positive ones - is that folks are too caught up with how this band fits into a "scene", or making fine distinctions of cool and meta-cool (e.g., independent music that isn't detached and ironic enough should be derided).

Me, I'm some guy in my mid-30's who hasn't a clue what is cool anymore, or cooler-than-cool, but just tries like heck to search out interesting music by browsing the Web and trading suggestions with friends. And "Funeral" - which I only heard about a year or so after it came out - is one of my favorite finds in recent years.

This is passionate, beautiful, rich, yet catchy-as-all-heck pop music. It has touchstones in the past (to me, I hear Talking Heads and Sugarcubes, but this is richer and warmer music) but sounds fresh and forward looking. The lyrics interleave melancholy and regret with passion and hope so finely that the differences among these are obliterated. Check out "Haiti" - the only song with any overtly political level to it: "All the tears and all the bodies bring about our second birth" - and this is set to some of the catchiest, slinkiest, and most sensual rhythms you'll hear in pop music.

It's rare to hear such sustained inspiration on an album, much less a debut album. It actually brought tears to my eyes!
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Every now and then, a truly original, groundbreaking band surfaces amid all the bland pop and rock. Montreal's Arcade Fire is one such band. In their glorious full-length debut "Funeral," Arcade Fire spins elaborate art-rock full of passion and atmosphere.

Rather than trying to hook you the way most songs do, Arcade Fire builds up their songs to a musical (and emotional) crescendo. The album opens on a four-song cycle called "Neighborhood," which deal with daydreams, neglect, fighting in a family, and just sitting around waiting for life to happen to you. All four things are pretty clearly considered disastrous -- don't waste time, make life happen!

Certainly that get-off-your-bum-and-make-things-happen attitude carries over to the wild "Wake Up," a howling anthem with an ever-evolving beat, and the well-named "Rebellion," where Win sings, ""Sleeping is giving in/no matter what the time is/Sleeping is giving in/so lift those heavy eyelids." You'll be emotionally exhausted when it reaches the wrenching finale, "In the Back Seat." And it does all this while making you dance too.

Most pop or rock songs are focused on "He/she left me/cheated on me and I'm miserable" or "I'm so in love." Don't expect anything so obvious from the Arcade Fire. These are about living life in general, not just one part of it. Why's it called "Funeral"? Partly the fear of dying without having accomplished something.

Musically, it will make your head spin. There's a blend of post-punk, rock, art-rock, pop, folk, classical, and much more -- like a punkier version of Neutral Milk Hotel or Modest Mouse. Woven together are xylophone, shimmering strings, swirling keyboard, piano, violins, and accordians. And they're all set to epic, crashing art-rock and disco rhythms.

And Win Butler is about as laid-back as his music. He can belt out tormented vocals like few can, shout, wail, whimper, and just sing. And his wife Regine offers equally angsty backing vocals. Which is a good thing, because it takes good vocals to do justice to brilliant songwriting like "The neighbors can dance in the disco police lights."

The Arcade Fire's "Funeral" is certainly a contender for "Best of 2004." At the very least, it's a polished and wrenching debut, and likely to get you off your butt and out living life. If joie de vivre had a sound, this is what it would sound like.
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on October 23, 2004
Well, best of the decade SO FAR, but my point still stands. This album is magnificent. It managed to do EVERYTHING so effortlessly, and yet not make any of it gimicky. It all feels genuine. It's pure genius indie rock.

Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels): 9/10. A nice lead in to the record. It sets the mood for the record. The piano is used to puntuate the stead drum and base line, while the guitars subtly push the song forward from the backround. A brilliant little art-dance rock medley, that ALSO manages to be epic. I know that definition sounds bizarre but you'll see what I mean when you hear it.

Neighborhood #2 (Laika): 10/10. Following the style of the first song, this song gets a little more intense and guitar oriented, and is even more enthralling to listen to. The singer is capable of expressing such sorrow and hope together in a single way that really expresses the strue strength of this song. it sounds pathetic and sad despite it being uptempo, and when it cuts off, it feels like you've lost something. Brilliant, and possibly my favorite on the album.

Une Annee Sans Lumiere: 9/10. Used as a break for the four neighborhood songs. It uses a slightly different, more airy pop styled rock. The guitars aren't as distorted as much as usual, and the keyboarding makes it very pretty. This song probably wouldn't be so astounding were it not for it's placement. Remember how I said the previous song made you feel empty? Well this one makes you feel better again. It's still sorrowful, but it sounds more hopeful as well. And the end turns into pure rock, because....

Neighborhood #3 (Power Out): 9/10. An all-out rocker. Again though, it's not abrasive. It's carried with airy pop like the rest of the songs, but the guitars, the vocals, the bassline, and the steady drums give it TONS of punch and energy. It's possilby the most uptempo song on the album, and it's a lot of fun to listen to without getting over-the-top. It's still very deep and emotionally powerful. This is what makes the band brilliant.

Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles): 9/10. This is a weird one, mainly because it sounds like the end of the album, but it's really just the end of the first act of the album. Rhythm moves this song forward.... Until it gains some more momentum near the end. Still this song is based on a very simple rhythm that's only set off every once in a while. This makes it, IMO, the weakest song on the album, but notice my rating, this song is still way better than a lot of songs that other bands make. The beautiful movement in the song remains. This song develops nicely with the ending feeling like an ending. It moves on to even better things though....

Crown of Love: 10/10. Holy ****. This is the song that got me into the band. It almost sounds like something off a movie soundtrack or something. Sorrowful and regretful, but with gorgeous instumentation, vocals, and progression with a very wise decision to lead it off rather than end it.

Wake Up: 10/10. Whoa.... This is probably the most impressive song on the album. Laika is probably my favorite, but this one's so good in every way. The orchatral instruments don't even take dominance in this song, they play in the backround. Heavy, metallic guitars predominate, but the song still manages to be downright beautiful and moving. It's also ever changing, even when you don't notice the new arrangements, they're coming in. This song is just plainly a masterpiece.

Haiti: 9/10. The woman vocalist takes over here, and does a really good job. Just as good as the guy, I think. She sounds like some bizarre mixture of Kim Deal and Björk. This song is very poppy-like. Still emotional and dynamic, but it almost sounds like some kind of alternative pop-rock song from the 80s.... Only, y'know.... Not as shallow as a puddle.

Rebellion (Lies): 10/10. Damn, this one's cool. Very catchy, nice use of TWO piano notes. I'm not even sure how the band does it somtimes. Listen to the piano.... Two notes.... Drums.... Three beats.... Simple chords.... And yet, it's SO dynamic, deep, and emotional. This song's just a whole lotta fun to listen to.

In The Backseat: 10/10. The female vocalist again takes lead in this erethral, lovely ending song. You can clearly see how her voice is like Björk's in this song. This is another masterpiece; a triouphant piece of music. It's the perfect closer for the perfect album.

When it ends, if feels like you've just finished some incredible experiance.... And yet, unlike some others this is a fully accessable and enjoyable album to a great many people. I get the feeling this is what Death Cab for Cutie strives for but can't quite achieve. (Note, that's not a shot at Death Cab. like Death Cab a lot, but nothing they've done can compete with this, IMO.)

I don't use the word masterpiece very often.... Hell, I wouldn't call my favorite album ever, The Lonesome Crowded West a masterpiece. I reserve "masterpiece" for the grand albums like Closer, OK Computer, Kid A, Homogenic, LOVELESS (gorgeous, gorgeous album if you don't know of it), or.... Uh.... THIS!

That's right. I'm putting The Arcade Fire on the same level as My Bloody Valentine. You're looking at a future classic. One that will be loved for generations to come.

If The Arcade Fire can ever top this, or match it.... Or even come close to it again, I'll be beyond impressed. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what they can do in the future.
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on September 17, 2004
When I first heard Broken Social Scene's "You Forgot it in People", I didn't like it. It seemed disjointed and distant. What I failed to realize on the first listen was that was the charm of that album. I consider that album to be the best of 2003 if only because it took 6 months to fully appreciate it.

Along comes 2004 and some band called Arcade Fire. I was more prepared for this album than "You Forgot it in People", but it still hit me awkwardly. Some tunes were instantly connectable while others seemed like unpolished B-sides. But by the fourth or fifth trip around I realized this is an incredibly cohesive album, though not immediately evident.

All of the other reviewers are right on: it's emotional, it's passionate, it's affecting... there's a song for every mood. Put it on random and it's a new adventure every time. The music has a complexity to it that masks it's simplicity, if that makes sense.

The only real NMH influence I can see are the off-key vocals which instantly remind one of Jeff Mangum. But he's so sincere and passionate you instantly forgive him. It adds to the ambience of the album.

If indie music is your thing, or you like Broken Social Scene, The Fiery Furnaces, even Radiohead or Grandaddy, this is worth looking into. Amazon has posted a nice selection of long sound bytes for every song on the album.
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on February 3, 2005
I'm not an expert, and I don't know every CD of 2004 to tell you which one is the best of 2004. And as a german my english is not the best, sorry.

I don't even know, what Pitchfork is. And I don't like all these comparisons. A little bit Björk? Yes,I can hear it. Pixies? For sure! Roxy Music? Talking heads? Obvious! As a great Bowiefan I got curious, because Bowie recommended this Band. But as I am not a sheep (hehe) I did not run and buy it immediately, but listened to the three free downloadable songs on the Merge-records-page.

My first impression was not very good and I thought, nice band, but I prefer Muse (my other favourites at the moment)... it sounds not very special, seems I have heard everything already somewhere else (...Talking Heads, Pixies, Björk, Roxy..)... but I burned the three Songs together with other stuff from my harddrive on a mix-CD and so I listened to them again and again - till the moment I ONLY listened to these three songs of my mix-CD and then clicked the repeat-button...

Let me tell you - it needs time! Everybody here who says he can judge it after two days or after listening to the amazon-snippets - forget it!

You need the time to get into this deep and melodic music. And it is a matter of taste. I can understand everybody who doesn't like the singer's voice or does not like such emotional music or violins and accordions in rockmusic. And sometimes it really sounds a little bit odd, reminding of old movies or chansons. But maybe it is especially that combination of old and new, slow and fast, wellknown melodies and strange instrumentation, which makes it so interesting for me.

I listen to the whole CD now for one month, and I am still not yet tired of it! I never listened as much to Björk or Talking Heads or the Pixies ...ok, maybe to Roxy Music, my old favourites. Seems it is this special kind of synthesis, that gets me hooked to this album (thanx, Bowie), and I just hope the next one won't be disappointing.

I also got two amazing bootlegs of live-gigs and so I am looking forward to their concert in Berlin next month ;-)
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on September 15, 2004
After reading pitchfork's ecstatic review and also noticing insound.com hailed "Funeral" as "album of the year, I was hesitant to pick this one up. I am always suspicious of such hype, but it only took one listen to justify all the hype surrounding this record.

Most often, a great album will snag my attention with a beautiful hook or a catchy riff, yet with "Funeral", I established a very quick emotional bond with the music, especially with Win Butler's powerful vocals.

I had a lot of trouble trying to pin down the emotive powers of the music. "Funeral" travels a fine line between beauty and over-the-top musicianship, but the humanistic touches flourish through the sublties, making the album totally genuine and earnest.

Yet despite the album's heavy emotional content, it's a surprisingly fun (and danceable) listen, with catchy guitar stabs, fluid bass lines, and upbeat drum licks. The finale on "Crown of Love" is absolutely loveable, while the open guitar riff of "Wake Up" just plain rocks. The album's pinnacle, "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) is slightly reminiscent of Modest Mouse, with it's emotional ambiguity and lyrical integrity.

The Arcade Fire have recieved a lot of comparisons to Neutral Milk Hotel, and while I fail to see any strong connection, both groups seem to brilliantly and effortlessly defy every sort of conventional categorization. At times "Funeral" seems like classical, indie pop, rock, dance, and slow alternative, sometimes simultaneously. And they still blend this eclectic mix masterfully, which merely shows the musical and emotional depth they've brought to the record.

However, trying to categorize and label this record seems unfair to its intent. The songs, with subjects like suburbia, parents, death, and car rides can seem at once sorrowful and still hopeful. The Arcade Fire have crafted a modern masterpiece that will continue to amaze because each listen can offer new insight, continuing to challenge the listener.

Don't buy this record because of the hype or because of this review. Go to The Arcade Fire's website and listen to the samples and merely let yourself get enveloped in this aural masterpiece. I can almost guarantee you will strike a deep, internal cord with something you won't be able to describe. It's something I still can't quite figure out, but most of me really doesn't want to know. All I know is that i simply can't stop listening.
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on January 17, 2005
I randomly picked up this album about a week after its release, having heard great things about it from a friend (who I believe read the Pitchfork review of the album). Upon listening to it, I was blown away.

The music on this album is a brilliant combination of energetic, melodic, emotional, and innovatively unique tracks. I listen to it in its entirety no less than twice each week.

What's more, The Arcade Fire puts on an incredible live show. I first saw them in December of 2004 in San Francisco, and I left the show in awe. It was one of, if not the most entertaining show I had ever attended. I had made sure to pick up a copy of their earlier EP, which as far as I know, is only available at their live shows.

Just last week (Jan 12 & 13, 2005, specifically), I saw the group perform again, at two of their three shows in San Francisco. Not only is the music wonderful, but the energy the group has on stage brings a whole other element to their music. You can tell that the group loves what they do, and their emotional attachment to their music is also apparent (during one show, Regine was crying while she sang 'In the Backseat').

Buy this album. See them perform live. You won't regret it.
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Every now and then, a truly original, groundbreaking band surfaces amid all the bland pop and rock. Montreal's Arcade Fire is one such band. In their glorious full-length debut "Funeral," Arcade Fire spins elaborate art-rock full of passion and atmosphere.

Rather than trying to hook you the way most songs do, Arcade Fire builds up their songs to a musical (and emotional) crescendo. The album opens on a four-song cycle called "Neighborhood," which deal with daydreams, neglect, fighting in a family, and just sitting around waiting for life to happen to you. All four things are pretty clearly considered disastrous -- don't waste time, make life happen!

Certainly that get-off-your-bum-and-make-things-happen attitude carries over to the wild "Wake Up," a howling anthem with an ever-evolving beat, and the well-named "Rebellion," where Win sings, ""Sleeping is giving in/no matter what the time is/Sleeping is giving in/so lift those heavy eyelids." You'll be emotionally exhausted when it reaches the wrenching finale, "In the Back Seat." And it does all this while making you dance too. There are bonus tracks, including a vivid B-side and a live performance, which are the ones that stand up to the original work. The other two just don't quite gel.

Most pop or rock songs are focused on "He/she left me/cheated on me and I'm miserable" or "I'm so in love." Don't expect anything so obvious from the Arcade Fire. These are about living life in general, not just one part of it. Why's it called "Funeral"? Partly the fear of dying without having accomplished something.

Musically, it will make your head spin. There's a blend of post-punk, rock, art-rock, pop, folk, classical, and much more -- like a punkier version of Neutral Milk Hotel or Modest Mouse. Woven together are xylophone, shimmering strings, swirling keyboard, piano, violins, and accordians. And they're all set to epic, crashing art-rock and disco rhythms.

And Win Butler is about as laid-back as his music. He can belt out tormented vocals like few can, shout, wail, whimper, and just sing. And his wife Regine offers equally angsty backing vocals. Which is a good thing, because it takes good vocals to do justice to brilliant songwriting like "The neighbors can dance in the disco police lights."

The Arcade Fire's "Funeral" is certainly a contender for "Best of 2004." At the very least, it's a polished and wrenching debut, and likely to get you off your butt and out living life. If joie de vivre had a sound, this is what it would sound like.
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on February 24, 2005
I have a question for those of you who gave this album a one star review, and think anyone who praises this album is a trendy-indie-retro-hipster who works at Starbucks, loves movies like Donnie Darko and Garden State, and takes everything NME and Pitchfork says as gospel:

Have you even LISTENED to it? Have you ever considered that The Arcade Fire is NOT the same case as The Strokes (I.E. an overhyped band that was mainly just a rehash of their oh-so obvious influences)? If not, please keep your ignorant opinions to yourself, and give the one star reviews to the bands and artists that deserve them. Like Nelly and Simple Plan, for instance.

If it isn't a perfect album, Funeral definitely comes close. It easily takes my "Best Of 2004" vote and possibly "Best Of Millennium" vote. It's a concept album about the triumphs and struggles of life, yet every song is vastly different from the last. There are vast, goosebump inducing anthems ("Neighborhood #1", "Wake Up") catchy pop songs ("Neighborhood #2, "Haiti") and ass-kicking straight-ahead rock ("Neighborhood #3", "Rebellion (Lies)"). Throughout it all, there's an astonishing variety of instrumentation. Sure there's your basic guitar/bass/drums line-up, but it's tempered with pianos, keyboards, xylophones, violins...hell, even an accordion! Seriously, looking at the liner notes and seeing just how many people played on this album is just astonishing. Oh, and the lyrics are extremely witty and filled with truisms such as "With my lightning bolts-a-glowing, I can see where I am going to be when the reaper reaches and touches my hand" and "Our older brother, bit by a vampire, for a year we caught his tears in a cup. And now we're gonna make him drink it. Come on Alex, don't die or dry up!"

Yes, you can hear influences from The Pixies, Radiohead, and Belle & Sebastian in their sound, but The Arcade Fire manages to become more than just the sum of its influences, and create their own unique sound, which a certain other hyped band I mentioned *AHEM* earlier hasn't managed to do. Also in complete contrast to said band, The Arcade Fire plays with an INSANE amount of energy, more so than any band I've ever heard. It almost gets to the point where you expect the CD to suddenly explode from the sheer force of the member's performances!

I don't give a damn what type of music you normally listen to. Buy this, and experience what I believe to be the best indie rock CD since "Loveless" or "OK Computer".
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