Building a devoted fan base with their interactive live performances and rousing, multi-instrumental, gang-chorus delivery, Canada's Arcade Fire became underground favorites when they debuted in 2004 with the critically acclaimed baroque-pop-meets-indie-rock Funeral. Stylistically evolving over the years, the unabashedly earnest group took their initial foray into darker textures and electronic flourishes with 2007's politically charged Neon Bible, the first of a string of chart-topping albums. They hit a commercial peak with 2010's nostalgic, Grammy-winning effort, The Suburbs, which took home the Album of the Year Award in 2011. With the incorporation of heavy synths and higher concepts like modern living in a technologically connected and commercially driven world, they extended chart dominance into the late 2010s with the island-beat double-album Reflektor (2013) and the divisive, disco-kissed Everything Now (2017). Originally comprising Régine Chassagne, Richard Parry, Tim Kingsbury, and brothers William and Win Butler, Arcade Fire 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 The 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 The 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 /TiVo
© Andrew Leahey /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released December 8, 2005 | Sony Music CG
As far as debuts go, the Arcade Fire's seven-song introduction to the world will forever be lorded over by its behemoth older sibling, 2004's commercially and critically lauded Funeral. While the hundreds of people who coveted the self-titled EP prior to its 2005 re-release on the ultra-hip Merge label can rest assured that their copies are indeed original, those who are looking for a prequel to the anthemic, end-of-the-world bombast that emanated like a black-box recorder from Funeral are in for a treat. While there's nothing here that matches the goosebump-inducing electricity that runs through "Tunnels" or "Power Out," there are moments -- both musical and lyrical -- that portend the fireworks to come. "Old Flame" starts things off innocently enough with a simple melody tied to the even simpler pangs of new love -- "My mouth is full/Your heart is an apple" -- and "I'm Sleeping in a Submarine" extends that joy with a defiant chorus of "A cage is a cage, is a cage, is a cage!" However, it isn't until the third track that the record begins to take shape -- "No Cars Go," with its driving accordion melody line and unified shouts, sounds like the blueprint for Funeral's "Rebellion (Lies)." Régine Chassagne does little to escape the Björk comparisons on the sparse "Woodlands National Anthem," but her distorted, blood-curdling howls on the pulsing "Headlights Look Like Diamonds" are one of the EP's highlights. By the time the listener arrives at "Vampire/Forest Fire," with its familiar themes of pain both spiritual and familial, it's obvious where the band is headed. Like Broken Social Scene or the Flaming Lips, the Arcade Fire are sometimes earnest to a fault. While each of the seven tracks contained herein are fully realized, they are as unfocused as they are beautiful, resulting in an intangible, dreamlike atmosphere that reduces each cut -- no matter how deep -- down to a mere scratch. © James Christopher Monger /TiVo