on 29 May 2006
French-Canadian alt-rockers 'The Arcade Fire' are an excellent band. There is no other way about it. This is a band that shows talent in abundance, and it is evident from the very beginning.
I was a bit skeptical when buying this because I had only heard 'Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)' and even though I thought it was fantastic, I was wondering if the rest of the tracks could hold the consistency that 'Power Out' did. Luckily, they did.
Opening up with 'Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)', which is a rather melodic song with a somewhat rocky edge to it. A great opener to a great album.
Track two, 'Neighbourhod #2 (Laika)' begins with drums and accordion before exploding into a musical jigsaw where everything fits together perfectly. Great music, and sounds very pleasing to the ears. Great stuff.
Track three, 'Une Annee Sans Lumiere' (A Year Without Light)- (if my dodgy French tells me correctly) begins really softly and has a quite peaceful ambience to it. The mood doesn't change until the very end and only for a while the tempo speeds up. A great track.
Track four, 'Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)' is somewhat heavier, mixing drums, violins, guitars, bass and glockenspiels to make a wonderful sound. An up-tempo track that is absolutely brilliant.
Track five, 'Neighbourhood #4 (Kettles)' is a down-tempo song and a nice one at that. The violins take over with the guitars to create a lovely, drift-away type of song. A very nice, warm ballad.
Track six, 'Crown Of Love' is one of my favourites, and even though the beginning isn't fantastic, it picks up as it goes along, and the bit where the song speeds up in tempo is brilliant. The violins add a brilliant touch to the song. Fantastic. Musical brilliance.
Track seven, 'Wake Up' is the song with the most anthemic beginning. The guitars are relatively heavy and grungy (for an alternative band) and the voices are brilliant when they come in. This is a top-quality track. Undoubtedly top-class. As the previous track, it speeds up in tempo to great effect. One of the album's best offerings.
Track eight, 'Haiti' is a laid-back number, which begins with an acoustic guitar before the vocals come in. Very laid-back, and the song pattern remains the same all the way through. A very good song nonetheless.
Track nine, 'Rebellion (Lies)' opens up with a pounding drum beat and bass before pianos and guitars come in. The vocals come in soon after. The violins are an addition soon after for a while before disappearing. This is a great song and a catchy one at that too. One of the album's best offerings.
Track ten, and the final track here, 'In The Backseat' is another drift-away song. A very anthemic song to finish off a great album from a very talented band indeed. I look forward to what their next album will be like.
on 7 June 2007
I cannot rate this album high enough. Having been given this by a mate to prove that not all the music he loves is awful, i was a bit of a sceptic. But it is quite simply one of the best albums i have ever heard, by the third hearing i was hooked. Thier ability to surprisingly change tempo mid track keeps this album endlessly interesting. The music is simply inspired and the lyric delivery is terribly impressive. In short, this turns my insides to mush. Its not quiet tho, it is a rock band and they do rock but it is so much more than that. They mix genres well, combining layered vocals with some sort of drum that builds tempos beautifully. I have ordered their second album without hearing it, purely on the basis of this one. If they can deliver a second time, then they are here to stay. For this album alone, i salute them
on 18 October 2005
Three attributes of a classic album:
1. No poor tracks
2. A number of absolutely magnificent tracks
Since I have only possessed this album for 6 weeks I can only safely vouch for the first two. However I would be very surprised if this album does not pass the test of time and I fully expect to be playing this in (whatever format music is listened to then) 10 years time.
There have been a lot of bands in recent years that have been heralded as the next big thing. Bands such as the Killers, The Kaiser Chiefs, Kasabian, and Snow Patrol have all released commendable albums in the past number of years but for me none of them is as exciting or as original as this opening salvo from this motley crew of French Canadians.
I first became aware of the Arcade Fire at the start of September when I was lucky enough to be persuaded into seeing them by a friend at the Electric Picnic festival. Up until then I had never heard of any of their music and so did not know what to expect as I went to the tent at the appointed time. Their following was apparent from the huge crowd that gathered even though it was not the main stage and it was still relatively early. What followed over the next 90 minutes was without doubt the best live performance from a band that I have ever been privileged to witness. They opened with the amazing "Wake Up" and it still makes the hairs stand up on my neck to remember the entire bend standing in a line on the stage absolutely screaming out the chorus to the crowd. I have never seen a band expend so much energy in a performance-every single member seemed to be possessed. It truly was amazing to witness.
Needless to say I was straight out to the shops to buy Funeral and I have not been disappointed. There are some incredible tracks on here. "Power Cut" stands out but for me my favourite is the penultimate track "Rebellion".
What more can I say. If you have the chance, see this band live, failing that buy this album, turn it up load and sit back and appreciate some magic.
on 12 May 2005
In what is an increasingly generic indie scene, the Arcade Fire are like a breath of fresh air. Hailing from Montreal, Canada this five-piece (plus numerous other musicians) have also managed to release one of the debuts of the year.
With four of the first five tracks titled Neighborhood, the songs tell intimate stories of towns trapped in snowstorms, and the loss of relatives and friends. Yet despite the strong themes of death and loss, the romantic nature of the songs means that the resounding outlook is one of hope rather than despair.
This is evidenced in the opening song, Neighborhood 1. "I'll dig a tunnel from my window to yours" sings Win Butler defiantly, accompanied by a striding rhythm and a lush, orchestral sound. It's the wealth of musicians which consistently lifts this album above the current crop of indie bands.
But despite the hymnal nature of the music, the Arcade Fire aren't afraid to crank the guitars up when necessary. Neighborhood 4 is suitably frantic, complete with crashing drums, and the chugging guitars of Wake Up are most effective. Yet it's the surprising twists in the songs which make this album so compelling. Just try not to smile when the elegant Crown of Love finishes with a dramatic disco beat.
Should Win Butler's yelping become too much, then Regine Chassagne's vocals should provide the perfect remedy. Sounding like a more palatable Bjork, she only appears as lead vocalist on Haiti and In The Backseat, but as a result, these tracks are made all the more special. On the latter, it's hard not to be moved when she proclaims "Alice died in the night" amidst a rousing chorus.
Many reviews have tagged the Arcade Fire as "a cross between the Pixies and the Polyphonic Spree". Certainly Butler's most crazed moments are reminiscent of Black Francis (and the lilting guitars of Une annee sans lumiere have a tinge of Bossanova-era Pixies about them), and the band seem to have a similar cultish aura about them as the Spree (although thankfully they're not in anyway gimmicky). And despite the band's otherworldly take on indie, the springy guitar and bass lines of Rebellion come across like an orchestral Interpol (no bad thing).
Yet this is an album and band which should be judged entirely on its own merits, of which there are many. With each listen, the music becomes bolder, more stirring, and offers something new. The Arcade Fire have already won over a lot of plaudits, hopefully they'll win over a lot more.
Key moments: Neighborhood 1 (Tunnels), Neighborhood 3 (Power Out), Crown Of Love, In The Backseat
on 2 April 2006
I don't usually write album reviews but felt compelled to add to the paltry couple of reviews here to urge others to just go out and buy or download this wonderful album. As an earlier reviewer has noted, this album (like all masterpieces) is a grower and the more you listen to it the greater you realise what an exceptional piece of work this is. I can't think of a better debut album in recent years and it puts into perspective the hype surrounding say, Franz Ferdinand and The Arctic Monkeys. Whilst I like both these bands and enjoy listening to the CDs, the ARCADE FIRE's Funeral is in another catgeory entirely and is destined to become a true classic of contemporary indie rock. Every single track is a winner, from the sublime melancholic romanticism of CROWN OF LOVE and IN THE BACKSEAT to the mesmerising, uplifting rock-outs of the already classic REBELLION (LIES) and NEIGHBOURHOOD No.2, to the lilting, glorious rock-funk of the hypnotic HAITI.
I remember first being aware of this band when seeing them perform live on Jools Holland's Later show and being blown away by their sensational performance of REBELLION, a song that never fails to move me, with it's thunderous bassline, heartfelt lyrics, subtle string and percussion backing and the way it rises slowly to a crescendo of sound.
2005 was a pretty good year, with excellent albums including GORILLAZ, ANTHONY AND THE JOHNSONS, THE WHITE STRIPES and KATE BUSH, but for me, THE ARCADE FIRE trumps the lot, with its originality and sheer verve and invention. IF you haven't heard this album, give it a try - I am confident you will love it and will await the next release from this fascinating and enigmatic band with keen interest.
on 15 April 2005
You know that feeling when you hear a new band? One that inspires you to the core, one that makes you want to buy every piece of crappy merchandise you can lay your hands on, and read every article that the irrelevant one paged website based in Iceland has to offer? No? Clearly you haven't heard this album.
Funeral isn't just the debut album of what might be Canada's greatest export, it is the album that every aspiring musician wants to make. Sad, funny, irreverent, difficult, melancoly, joyful, epic and so very beautiful. Every finger click has been assessed, every squeak of the instruments (that I have absolutely no clue of how to name) is precision placed, but don't let that suggest that this album lacks soul, for this is soul. Laid on a table and beaten black and blue.
There are hightlights of course in the Bloc Party-esque beats of Rebellion and the Delgados hints of In the backseat, but like all masterpieces, this must be consumed as a whole, like a packet of Jaffa cakes, silently and alone.
I dare you to listen to this and in the dying few seconds not be spellbound and frantically reaching for your remote control to listen again. Just to check that you weren't dreaming. Because that was the best album you ever heard. Stop pinching yourself!
on 5 August 2005
I love music. I love new music, but new music I love is hard to find. Antony and the Johnsons 'I Am a Bird Now' and Kanye West's 'College Dropout' have been the only new-ish releases to blow my mind (I'm looking forward to Kanye's new one). Finding something musically beautiful, conceptually whole and emotionally mature, music to fulfil my every need, is a rare thing indeed. Then one day came Arcade Fire...
'Funeral' is a deeply-charged, whirling, emotional explosion. There are moments of gut wrenching sadness and boundless joy. Ghostly backing, sparkling piano, slicing guitars, roar tribal disco-style drumming and the desperate plea of the vocals all make up these compelling, vivid, fantastical snapshots.
I feel sure it's an album you will keep coming back to in years to come.
on 26 September 2005
You know this is a great band when their first album is titlked Funeral, a symbol of the end. This is one of the greatest albums I have ever heard. Each song is beautiful in its own unique way and after hearing it 2 or 3 times you might even come to believe these songs have been hidding in your head your whole ife until you pressed play on your Cd player. Sadly for the Arcade Fire this is goping to be hard to top as it is near perfect, the card sleave it comes in is perticularly impressive and fun. The insert booklet is a mock of a funeral directory with all the song words and credits listed as if they were hymes. I can't sum up this album no matter how much I feel I should, all i can say is I have had it less than 2 days and it's all I've listerned to since I did. If you heard the singles Power Out or Rebelion you will be excitied to hear they are not the best tracks here by a long way. Get it now!
The reviews I find most useful tell me "if you like such and such a band, or this other album, you'll probably enjoy this". With Arcade Fire's "Funeral", finding a comparison is a uniquely challenging task. You really have to spread the net wide to find influences or similarities in contemproary music.
In places, with their layered, complex, slightly ambient sound, Arcade Fire sound a bit like Sonic Youth's "Hoarfrost" or "Diamond Sea". But the addition of strings, multiple percussionists and the occasional accordian, the comparison is not perfect. Similarly, if you liked some of the Icelandic band The Sugarcubes' earlier work, then you'll probably like "Funeral". But that's not to say that they're the *same*.
In places, the intentionally formless and flowing nature of their songs akes them sound a little like the Fall, but scored for performance by strings, acoustic guitars, multiple voices and the like.
The closest comparison is with the song Hoppípolla by another bunch of Icelanders, Sigur Rós, currently getting a lot of MTV2 play (the ones with the video of old folks playing at pirates and jumping in puddles): gentle, melodic and tuneful.
You can tell that it's a struggle. Arcade Fire are - and this phrase is overused, I know - quite unlike anyone else in the mainstream music scene right now.
The tracks exude joy (surprisingly for a record largely inspired by loss). You will know "Wake Up" when you hear it - beautiful, uplifting and accessible, unsurprisingly the trendier end of the
ad agency has lept on it, using it for a BBC season trailer.
"In The Backseat" is another cracking track: you think you have a grip on it - a strong feeling of the Cocteau Twins from their Blue Bell Knoll period, although with an occasional guitar line closer to the late 80's or early-90's post-Manchester indie scene of someone like Ride - and then suddenly you have tympanies, a Beatles-esque cello line and some melodic violin scoring. It's like a brilliantly accomplished band started jamming with the string section of a chamber orchestra after the recording session. It finally dies away with pizzicato strings, fading into the silence.
"Rebellion" has been overshadowed by the radio-friendly, hook-rich Wake Up for a long time, but may perhaps prove to be an even better song, with a driving, repetitive bass, piano and drum combination driving the song along: a whirling, spinning, racing joy of a song.
This slow burner of an album has been around since 2004 in the USA, and has gradually built up a following through internet word-of-mouth and, more recently, MTV2 first playlisting it then making it their album of the year. I've never given five stars in a review before, but this one deserves it!
on 8 November 2005
Picked up this album last week after some positive reviews from some of the guys on Amazon, and my word, it's fantastic. It's like nothing I've heard before, yet it feels so familiar. Without wishing to get all pretentious It's like a stroll through the Canadian wilderness in mid-winter, with the bright sun reflecting off the icy landscape being both warming and blinding at the same time. You can't help listening to this album without ending up contented, it's original, it's beautiful, one of the finest albums I've heard in a long while.