A combination of indie rock muscle and theatrical, unapologetic bombast turned Arcade Fire into indie royalty in the early 2000s. Originally comprised of Régine Chassagne, Richard Parry, Tim Kingsbury, and brothers William and Win Butler, the group formed during the summer of 2003, after Win spotted Chassagne singing jazz standards at a Montreal art exhibit. The grandson of famed swing-era bandleader Alvino Rey, Win was quickly charmed by Chassagne's performance, leading the two to launch a songwriting partnership. Romance followed shortly thereafter, and the duo expanded its sound by gathering Parry on organ, Kingsbury on bass, and Win Butler's younger brother, William, on synthesizer and percussion. Drawing from the bandmates' varied influences, Arcade Fire began mining an eclectic mix of bossa nova, punk, French chanson, and classically tinged pop music, referencing everything from U2's passion to David Bowie's eclecticism in the process. Arcade Fire issued a self-titled EP in 2003, having briefly retreated to Maine for the recording sessions. Propelled by Win Butler's quavering vocals and his bandmates' symphonic swells, the disc helped earn the band an official offer from Merge Records. The bandmates' luck faltered later that year, however, when Chassagne's grandmother passed away. The Butler brothers' grandfather followed suit in March 2004, and Parry's aunt died one month later. Seeking catharsis in the studio, the members of Arcade Fire funneled their energies into the creation of Funeral. Released in September 2004, the debut album was met with unanimous acclaim -- both commercially and critically -- and Arcade Fire found themselves maintaining a nearly constant presence on the road, playing such high-profile festivals as Lollapalooza and Coachella between a slew of smaller club dates. They also appeared on the cover of Time magazine's Canadian edition, garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album, rubbed shoulders with superfan David Bowie, and toured alongside U2. Following an exhausting year, Arcade Fire decamped to a church outside of Montreal to work on a second release. The ambitious Neon Bible arrived in March 2007, featuring such grand ornamentations as a pipe organ, a military choir, and a full orchestra. The album peaked at number two and sparked another tour, which found the band playing more than 120 shows over the course of a year. When touring wrapped up in early 2008, Arcade Fire played several shows in support of presidential candidate Barack Obama before beginning work on a third album. The resulting Suburbs, an eclectic 16-track ode to childhood, suburban sprawl, and middle-class dreams both won and lost, arrived on August 2, 2010. The record was universally acclaimed and reached number one in both the U.S. and U.K. album charts. The following year they won a host of awards, including prestigious accolades such as a Grammy for Album of the Year, the Polaris Prize, and BRIT awards for both Best International Album and Group, among other honors and nominations. Their success followed them on the road as they sold out shows across the globe, and in 2011 they released a deluxe version of Suburbs that included a short film -- titled Scenes from the Suburbs -- directed by Spike Jonze. They began work on their fourth release in 2012 and enlisted LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy for production duties. The critically acclaimed double album, entitled Reflektor, was released in October 2013, and was followed by an ambitious world tour. A documentary film of the tour, The Reflektor Tapes, was released in 2015, as was an accompanying EP of the same name. May 2017 saw Arcade Fire perform an intimate secret show in Montreal, where they played six new songs. At the end of the month they released "Everything Now," the lead single from the highly anticipated fifth studio album of the same name, which dropped later that July. Featuring production by Daft Punk's Thomas Bangalter, Pulp's Steve Mackey, Portishead's Geoff Barrow, and longtime producer Markus Dravs, Everything Now also featured the singles "Creature Comfort" and "Electric Blue." ~ Andrew Leahey
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2013 | Vertigo Berlin
Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Pitchfork: Best New Music
After stunning the mainstream pop machine into a state of huffy, new school e-disbelief by beating out Eminem, Lady Antebellum, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry for the 2011 Album of the year Grammy, Arcade Fire seemed poised for a U2-style international coup, but the Suburbs, despite its stadium-ready sonic grandiosity, was far too homespun and idiosyncratic to infect the masses in the same way as the Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby. Reflektor, the Montreal collective's much anticipated fourth long-player and first double-album, moves the group even further from pop culture sanctification with a seismic yet impenetrable 13-track set (at 75 minutes it’s one minute over standard single disc capacity) that guts the building but leaves the roof intact. Going big was never going to be a problem, especially for a band so well-versed in the art of anthem husbandry, and they're still capable of shaking the rafters, as evidenced by the cool and circuitous, Roxy Music-forged, David Bowie-assisted title cut, the lush, Regine Chassagne-led “It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus),” and the impossibly dense and meaty “We Exist,” but what ultimately keeps Reflektor from sticking the landing is bloat. The stylistic shifts, courtesy of LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, aren’t nearly as jarring as the turgid and Tiki-colored, almost seven-minute “Here Comes the Night Time,” the six minutes of rewinding tape that serve as the coda for the otherwise lovely “Supersymmetry,” or the unnecessarily drawn-out fountain of white noise that should seamlessly connect the Gary Glittery “Joan of Arc” with the Flaming Lips-ian “Here Comes the Night Time, Pt. 2,” but doesn’t because the songs are on separate discs. Flush with artistic capital, they went on a bender, and in the process lost some of the warmth, jubilation, and capacity for empathy that made their first three efforts so inclusive. Nevertheless, Reflektor is as fascinating as it is frustrating, an oddly compelling miasma of big pop moments and empty sonic vistas that offers up a (full-size) snapshot of a band at its commerical peak, trying to establish eye contact from atop a mountain. ~ James Christopher Monger
Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2011 | Universal
Montreal’s Arcade Fire successfully avoided the sophomore slump with 2007’s apocalyptic Neon Bible. Heavier and more uncertain than their near perfect, darkly optimistic 2004 debut, the album aimed for the nosebleed section and left a red mess. Having already fled the cold comforts of suburbia on Funeral and suffered beneath the weight of the world on Neon Bible, it seems fitting that a band once so consumed with spiritual and social middle-class fury, should find peace “under the overpass in the parking lot.” If nostalgia is just pain recalled, repaired, and resold, then The Suburbs is its sales manual. Inspired by brothers Win and William Butler’s suburban Houston, TX upbringing, the 16-track record plays out like a long lost summer weekend, with the jaunty but melancholy Kinks/Bowie-esque title cut serving as its bookends. Meticulously paced and conservatively grand, fans looking for the instant gratification of past anthems like “Wake Up” or “Intervention” will find themselves reluctantly defending The Suburbs upon first listen, but anyone who remembers excitedly jumping into a friend’s car on a sleepy Friday night armed with heartache, hope, and no agenda knows that patience is key. Multiple spins reveal a work that’s as triumphant and soul-slamming as it is sentimental and mature. At its most spirited, like on “Empty Room,” “Rococo,” “City with No Children,” “Half Light II (No Celebration),” “We Used to Wait,” and the glorious Régine Chassagne-led “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains),” the latter of which threatens to break into Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” at any moment, Arcade Fire makes the suburbs feel positively electric. Quieter moments reveal a changing of the guard, as Win trades in the Springsteen-isms of Neon Bible for Neil Young on “Wasted Hours,” and the ornate rage of Funeral for the simplicity of a line like “Let’s go for a drive and see the town tonight/There’s nothing do, but I don’t mind when I’m with you,” from album highlight “Suburban War.” The Suburbs feels like Richard Linklater’s Dazed & Confused for the Y generation. It’s serious without being preachy, cynical without dissolving into apathy, and whimsical enough to keep both sentiments in line, and of all of their records, it may be the one that ages so well. ~ James Christopher Monger
Alternative & Indie - Released July 28, 2017 | Columbia
We’ve been waiting four years for this. After the brilliant Reflektor in 2013, Arcade Fire have returned with Everything Now - their fifth album packed with explosive contrasts. For the occasion, the Canadian-American band surrounded themselves with musical geniuses: Thomas Bengalter from Daft Punk, Steve Mackey from Pulp and Geff Barrow from Portishead. The resulting album is transfigured and multifaceted. The synths are fired up and raring to go, the beats stable and assured. Everything Now is the kind of track that’s made to be performed in a stadium. Signs of Life follows in the footsteps of Blondie, the Cure and the Pet Shop Boys, while Electric Blue crosses over into to the Talking Heads’ territory. Recorded for the first time outside of Montreal, Paris and New Orleans, this 12-track album goes deeper than it’s perceptive and melancholic lyrics - it’s orchestrated by a powerful mix of synth-pop, new wave eighties, disco and even americana (such as in the song Put Your Money on Me). We Don’t Deserve Love provides us with a smooth landing to the journey at the end of the album, in which we find Daniel Lanois on the pedal steel guitar. We know one thing for sure - summer this year will be spent indoors, on the dance floor.
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