Ranking: Every Arcade Fire Song from Worst to Best

Grab a football helmet and drum your way through these 79 anthems

Ranking Every Arcade Fire Song
Arcade Fire
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Rank and File finds us sorting through an exhaustive, comprehensive body of work or collection of pop-culture artifacts. This time, we celebrate Arcade Fire’s entire catalogue by revisiting all 79 of their anthems.

From the very first notes of their debut album — those gleaming wind-chime like synths, the chugging guitar, the regal piano — Arcade Fire became one of those remarkably few life-changing, era-defining bands in indie rock history. Their songs soared, creaked, ached, and roared, breathing vibrant, triumphant life and passion.

For nearly a decade and a half, the Montreal-based band have continued to push and challenge themselves, drawing from their own confrontation with personal crisis and giving us access to things we might have been ignoring within our own lives. But always retaining the emotional core, their “us against the world” anthems, and their arena-propelling hooks.

Retaining the title of indie champion is a difficult thing, however, and on the back of less-than-stellar reports of their soon-to-be-released fifth album (and a since-refuted dress code for their live show, not to mention the increasingly noxious marketing campaign), the naysayers have turned out in full force. Though we won’t be ranking the songs of Everything Now particularly high on this list, to write off the album, let alone the band’s catalogue as a whole, would be a serious mistake.

In fact, looking at their entire catalogue reveals the commonalities between the satirical maximalism of Everything Now and their austere debut Funeral and everything in between. There are so many themes, tropes, and sounds that have recurred over the years, tying everything together in one grand package. It’s certainly been a joy unraveling it.

–Lior Phillips
Associate Editor


78. “My Buddy”

Funeral Japanese Bonus Disc (2004)

Sounds like warped audio from Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii. Move along, nothing to stream here. –Michael Roffman


77. “Everything_Now (continued)”

Everything Now (2017)

The third best of the “Everything Now” trilogy. Or, the least necessary song in the Arcade Fire catalogue. –Philip Cosores


76. “Chemistry”

Everything Now (2017)

The irony of this song’s title should be lost on no one. As the band makes their way through half-baked dub, there’s a sense that they are lost in the wilderness, not only out of touch with what an audience would want to hear, but clueless as to what works for them as a band. –Philip Cosores


75. “Women of a Certain Age”

The Reflektor Tapes (2013)

Try and remember those boring afternoons in college, when you’d be trying to study on the campus quad, only to be distracted by some total goober playing meandering reggae songs on an acoustic guitar. Fun times. –Michael Roffman


74. “Apocrypha”

The Reflektor Tapes (2013)

This is Arcade Fire acting like an uncertain Bob Dylan. Spare yourself the five minutes. –Michael Roffman


73. “Everything Now (continued)”

Everything Now (2017)

When “Everything Now” returns for a whopping third time on the album of the same name, at least it’s for a reason. The huge orchestral interpretation serves as a reminder of the band of the past, and, unfortunately, how we all liked them better back then. –Philip Cosores


72. “Soft Power”

The Reflektor Tapes (2013)

Win Butler must have been listening to a lot of Oasis, or he was trying to emulate latter-era Spiritualized here. Either way, it doesn’t make the song sound any less repetitive or redundant. Soft power, hard pass. –Michael Roffman


71. “The Suburbs (Continued)”

The Suburbs (2010)

The Suburbs began a trend of Arcade Fire including reprises of their songs throughout the album, a hallmark they’ve yet to abandon. Granted, it works fine in the context of an album, be it for pacing or for theme, but on its own, “The Suburbs (Continued)” is just an echo of what the group had already accomplished. –Philip Cosores


70. “Infinite Content”

Everything Now (2017)

Alternate title: “Out of Ideas: Punk Version.” –Philip Cosores


69. “Infinite_Content”

Everything Now (2017)

Alternate title: “Out of Ideas: Slow Version.” –Philip Cosores


68. “Flashbulb Eyes”

Reflektor (2013)

There’s little ambiguity in Win Butler’s opining life in front of the camera on this bit of Reflektor filler. It’s all chaos and texture, with the song often distracting itself away from Butler’s vocals. It’s as close to sounding like a cracked egg as Arcade Fire has ever sounded. –Philip Cosores


67. “Crucified Again”

The Reflektor Tapes (2013)

Religious allegories are usually right in Win Butler’s wheelhouse, but sadly, he never gets this Reflektor B-side out of the church alive. The song’s almost there, even has a nice stroll to it, but lacks the right spirit to conjure anything else but boredom. It’s like a dreary morning at Sunday school; you know, if we’re keeping these Catholic parallels going. –Michael Roffman


66. “My Heart Is an Apple”

Arcade Fire EP (2003)

Ever listened to Three Dog Night’s version of “Easy to Be Hard”? Sounds a little like this early slice of Arcade Fire: melancholy, angsty, and tranquil. Unlike that song, however, “My Heart is an Apple” is all over the place, hampered by its own ambition as the band tries to do too much. Even worse, they waste the closing payoff they totally earned –Michael Roffman


65. “Here Comes the Night Time II”

Reflektor (2013)

This song gave me the gift of confrontation: “I hurt myself again/ Along with all my friends.” It’s the sound pulled from a gonzo-style admission into a sombre singer-songwriter ballad. But when the song slowly builds, the seams never split, and we’re left feeling that the night is coming — but it’s not the end to the day we were looking for. –Lior Phillips


64. “You Already Know”

Reflektor (2013)

It’s like Ferris Bueller says, “Life moves pretty fast, and if you stop and listen to most of Reflektor, specifically songs like ‘You Already Know’, you could miss it.” –Michael Roffman


63. “Sprawl I (Flatland)”

The Suburbs (2010)

Win Butler wraps up The Suburbs by bringing it all home with this maudlin meditation on all the themes he’s been chewing on. It’s more of an exit survey to the album itself, kind of like those expository inter-titles that tend to pop up at the end of historical dramas — you know, like Ray. Thank god for the song’s sequel. Could you imagine walking away after this? –Michael Roffman


62. “Old Flame”

Arcade Fire EP (2003)

Can’t you hear the echoes of Funeral? It’s like they’re down the hall, or maybe just around the corner, or perhaps in the next building. The longer you stay with the song, the more you hear the Arcade Fire you fell in love with, only that guitar line is so pedestrian compared to everything that would come later. –Michael Roffman


61. “Signs of Life”

Everything Now (2017)

Of all the bad decisions made by the band, having Win Butler do his best Debbie Harry via “Rapture” might have been the most ill-advised. At its heart, “Signs of Life” is a sturdy song built on a swaggering bass line that could’ve been salvaged if not for Butler’s cadence. At least Blondie was doing it at the dawn of hip-hop. Arcade Fire doesn’t quite have the same excuse. –Philip Cosores


60. “I’m Sleeping in a Submarine”

Arcade Fire EP (2003)

As with most of Arcade Fire’s gripping oeuvre, the more time you spend with it, the more it expands. Régine Chassagne’s voice is just as casually inscrutable as the melody she drives home, through short simple words stretched across the chords like chewing gum pulled open by two naughty children: “I’m sleeping in a fighter plane/ I’m sleeping going down the drain.” Even when she disappears into the song’s splaying beats, her passion remains palpable. –Lior Phillips


59. “I Give You Power”

“I Give You Power” Single (2013)

When Arcade Fire dropped this standalone single on the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, “I Give You Power” arrived with a deep synth grove and a Mavis Staples call-and-response that seemed tailor-made for the moment. It was also cause for concern that this might be the direction of their next album, which didn’t prove to be totally off-base. In hindsight, it wasn’t strong enough to stand with the cream of “Everything Now”, but also didn’t really deserve to be relegated to B-side status. –Philip Cosores


58. “Culture War”

The Suburbs Deluxe Edition (2010)

Also known as the Suburbs B-side that doesn’t have David Byrne on it. There’s something unfinished about the song as it drives at a single gear for its entire running time. It’s lacking a moment. That said, there’s a reason why it didn’t make the final album. It’s the band’s version of an associate professor. It’s “less than.” –Philip Cosores


57. “Good God Damn”

Everything Now (2017)

There’s a reason why The Black Keys sell out arenas. They can take a bluesy, soul song like “Good God Damn” and turn it into a floor-stomping anthem that tickles all the right places and makes people B-O-O-G-I-E. Arcade Fire come so close, as they do with so many songs on Everything Now, but never do anything with the vibes. Instead, Win Butler leans on repetition and loses us at the most crucial moment: the chorus. Good god damn, indeed. –Michael Roffman


56. “The Woodland National Anthem”

Arcade Fire EP (2003)

This song plays out almost like a primitive version of what would become the model for Arcade Fire’s heart-wrenching epics — the sound of them busking and working it all out. Acoustic chugging, bass drum thumping, the feeling of being in a family fighting the end of the world, it’s all there, just waiting to be unlocked. –Lior Phillips


55. “Peter Pan”

Everything Now (2017)

Unlike Steven Spielberg’s Hook, Arcade Fire’s “Peter Pan” is a quick gasp. At less than three minutes, it’s among the band’s shortest songs, and that bite-sized nature works to its advantage. “We can live, I don’t feel like dying,” Win Butler proclaims, channeling his inner lost boy over industrialized beats that wouldn’t be too out of place on Yeezy’s 808s and Heartbreak. It’s imaginative in ways that are lacking on Everything Now, but it also never finds enough happy thoughts to fly. –Michael Roffman


54. “Rococo”

The Suburbs (2010)

If you look up baroque in the dictionary, they might as well just include this recording. While Arcade Fire had been continually evolving since Funeral, this song stood as proof that retreading for them would feel redundant. –Philip Cosores


53. “Half Light I”

The Suburbs (2010)

Emotional and elegant, “Half Light I” sounds like those DeVotchKa songs from Little Miss Sunshine, only with Win Butler and Régine Chassagne on singing on top, perhaps as Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette … eh, perhaps not. It’s a minor effort for the group, to be sure, but the mild breakdown that occurs in the last 50 seconds of the song is rather beautiful. –Michael Roffman


52. “Joan of Arc”

Reflektor (2013)

If you wanna pinpoint where the restlessness of Everything Now began, look no further than Reflektor‘s forgettable “Joan of Arc”. A blast of thrash punk, a bounce of heavy-handed analogies to the medieval heroine, a verse entirely in French, and two minutes of a meandering outro. If they’d released this track an album later, it would have felt perfectly in place. –Philip Cosores


51. “Vampire/Forest Fire”

Arcade Fire EP (2003)

“Let’s live in the suburbs,” Win Butler sings. “If I let where I live burn, I can never return.” Attachment to physical space and concerns of the ‘burbs were there from the beginning, and the slow-simmering tune avoids some cringeworthy lines (“Your father was a pervert”) to reach a powerful climax. The ramp-up fits a slippery piano river and gritty guitar into a stairway out of the darkness. –Lior Phillips


50. “Speaking in Tongues”

The Suburbs Deluxe Edition (2010)

David Byrne is a city guy, so he was never going to fit on The Suburbs. Okay, bad joke, but really, this song in no way, shape, or form would have worked on the album. Though, having the former Talking Heads frontman in tow is one hell of a way to sell a deluxe edition, and for that, it’s a bargain. His harmonies at the end are phe-nom-i-nal. –Michael Roffman


49. “Get Right”

The Reflektor Tapes (2013)

This rattling foot-stomper cracks the whip on raw, gritty rock guitar nodes, slowly breaking into echoing percussion and vocal lines that lift the ground. As Win Butler stops singing, a much-needed urgency manifests and every instrument is angled and curved, the whole thing amassed as if without human touch. –Lior Phillips


48. “Put Your Money on Me”

Everything Now (2017)

On an album that sags under grandiose statements and winking neon, “Put Your Money On Me” has enough immediacy in its fluorescent hook to make some impact. The quasar-fire electric bass line pushes energy into the system, and the relatively simple lyrics don’t distract from the rhythm. It’s not at the level of some of Arcade Fire’s previous electronic dalliances, but it doesn’t sink under its own weight either. –Lior Phillips


47. “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations”

Neon Bible (2007)

From the first crack, a new wave of weirdness punctures the beat as the soaring strings wire through Régine Chassagne. It travels nowhere until Win Butler steers it straight into the eye of the storm: “Nothing lasts forever that’s the way it’s gotta be.” Whilst the melodic juxtaposition is jarring, the message is clear: “The sound is not asleep, it’s moving under my feet.” It’s a reminder that there’s life during and after the chaos. –Lior Phillips


46. “The Well and the Lighthouse”

Neon Bible (2007)

Maybe one of Arcade Fire’s less heralded traits is their energy. Often times it can come across as forced for album pacing, but a song like “The Well and the Lighthouse” doesn’t strike that way. It’s an invigorated tune, making the coda all the more effective when things slow down and Butler adds a dramatic bit of punctuation. –Philip Cosores


45. “Headlights Look Like Diamonds”

Arcade Fire EP (2003)

It’s 2003. You’re new in college. You hear about a new band called Arcade Fire. You see ’em play “Headlights Look Like Diamonds”. It sounds a little like Built to Spill covering songs off The Unforgettable Fire. You’re going to love Arcade Fire. –Michael Roffman


44. “Normal Person”

Reflektor (2013)

There’s only one Mick Jagger, as we all know, but Win Butler does an admirable job mimicking the lanky Rolling Stones frontman. It’s all intentional, as the song takes jabs at “normal people” through what’s more or less a conventional rock song. But rock ‘n’ roll has become conventional; what once was pure and rebellious is now as dispensable as a cup of coffee. Some may find that argument pretentious as all hell, some may find it smart. We’re somewhere in the middle. –Michael Roffman


43. “Neon Bible”

Neon Bible (2007)

Sure, the title track from their second album can feel slight. But a recent return to their live show displays a surprisingly sturdy number that was built to last. Or maybe it just takes watching the band perform the song in an elevator to really appreciate it. That page-tear percussion is gold. — Philip Cosores


42. “Electric Blue”

Everything Now (2017)

It’s the sound of Arcade Fire overdosed on ‘80s pop: While the other Everything Now singles analyzed the overwhelming maximalism of modern society by pumping out their own grandiose sounds, “Electric Blue” works in hollowed retro pop simplicity. –Lior Phillips


41. “Half Light II (No Celebration)”

The Suburbs (2010)

The synth stutter here sounds like the flashing of a strobelight as Win Butler and Régine Chassagne’s lingering harmonies gain sweetness against the choppy waves. The lyrics fit right into the groove that Butler long ago created (lots of talk about parents and being a little child, and the spectacularly trope-y “Pay the cost for what we’ve lost” not once but twice), but when the taut push-and-pull cracks across the sky with intensity, those simple lyrics somehow feel revelatory, cutting, essential. The best Arcade Fire songs don’t reinvent the wheel, but somehow make the wheel feel brand new anyway.–Lior Phillips


40. “Ocean of Noise”

Neon Bible (2007)

The band doesn’t do delicate often, and “Ocean of Noise” makes arguments both for and against this. Lovely without being captivating, it’s easy to classify the track as an also-ran. But it’s also some of the most indicative music on Neon Bible as to where they’d head on The Suburbs. That’s worth something. –Philip Cosores


39. “(Antichrist Television Blues)”

Neon Bible (2007)

The most Springsteenian moment on their most Springsteenian album. The song makes a ton more sense after you learn it’s about Joe Simpson, but for the band, that felt a little like punching downward. Still, the 12-bar-blues roars like a locomotive, giving winking pop culture commentary a little more heft than it deserves. –Philip Cosores


38. “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus)”

Reflektor (2013)

Only Arcade Fire could take an ancient Greek tragedy, add some funky beats, and turn it into a stadium-shaker. Along with “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)”, the band jam the story of love’s attempt to beat death, a heroic singer, the struggles of time, and more all into their Reflektor shimmy. Let it never be said Arcade Fire were afraid of going big. –Lior Phillips


37. “Month of May”

The Suburbs (2010)

Arcade Fire grip their hidden punk rock heart, most likely in some suburban garage, and it’s a look that surprisingly suits them well. It’s also a sound they should seriously consider leaning on in the future. No kidding: Do it and make our heads go AROUND AND AROUND AND AROUND AND AROUND. –Michael Roffman


36. “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)”

Reflektor (2013)

There’s just such a musicality to that name: Eurydice. It’s silvery, weighted, dripping with emotion. And Win Butler carries it all, leading to Beatles-y explosions of confetti, interlocking rhythms, and pastel synths. Along with “It’s Never Over”, this song takes on centuries-old feelings, blends them with some very personal ones, and pours it all out in a candy coating.–Lior Phillips


35. “Creature Comfort”

Everything Now (2017)

Arcade Fire chase after Will and Barb into the Upside Down, only to return with one of the best songs off Everything Now. Sorry Will and Barb. –Michael Roffman


34. “Une année sans lumière”

Funeral (2004)

With “Une année sans lumière”, Arcade Fire burst into the world with enchanting mystery and intimacy, and this partially French-sung tune embodies those qualities perfectly. The language comes partly from Win Butler’s adopted home of Montreal as well as his wife and bandmate’s Haitian upbringing. After a twinkly, lingering body, the song revs up and the two lovers escape away together. –Lior Phillips


33. “Black Mirror”

Neon Bible (2007)

After the burning heart of Funeral turned Arcade Fire into indie darlings, this song amps up their scope, adds a layer of bleak energy, and yet retains their simplest strengths. At the song’s peak, the French-shouted numbers (“Un, deux, trois dis miroir noir!”) offer a spooky urgency matched mystically in the grinding instrumentation. –Lior Phillips


32. “Empty Room”

The Suburbs (2010)

It sucks when the people you love become the people you … just don’t care about anymore. Whether it’s a close friend, a lover, a family member, or whoever, it’s a crappy deal. For Régine Chassagne, that person is no longer there, and that’s why it’s just her standing around an “Empty Room”. Hey, at least she’s got those crazy violins to keep her company. –Michael Roffman


31. “We Don’t Deserve Love”

Everything Now (2017)

Everything Now doesn’t hold many moments that surprise the audience — at least in a good way — but the inclusion of “We Don’t Deserve Love” feels like a gift when up against the bulk of the album material. The song is a reminder that Arcade Fire is at its best when appealing on an emotional level, and that even at the lowest point of their career, they are still capable of finding ways to be deeply affecting. Even if they don’t deserve love, this song sure does. –Philip Cosores


30. “We Exist”

Reflektor (2013)

Chugging mid-tempo rock unfurls beneath Win Butler’s desperate plea, while his bandmates pound out restless electronic indie rock. Somehow, “We Exist!” manages to be both liberating and terrifying at once, detailing a conversation between a gay son and his father. Written in Jamaica, Arcade Fire were inspired by the anti-gay culture there and how that forms a stark comparison to the “liberal bubble” the band found themselves in. It’s a brazen, powerful statement. –Lior Phillips


29. “Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)”

Funeral (2004)

“They say a watched pot never boils.” Those words get at the core of Win Butler’s aching need for change in a broken world, but also the metronome guitar and the nervously twitching violins underneath. The choruses rise and slope, something is happening, but then it’s just “water getting hotter,” returning to that cold, black kettle. –Lior Phillips


28. “Crown of Love”

Funeral (2004)

What very few people ever realize following bad breakups is that life is actually getting better for them. More often than not, the breakup happened because shit was going south. The sooner they come to terms with that, the faster they can leave their own slobbering mess. That sobering moment, and all the gooey feelings that are par for the course, happens exactly three minutes and 42 seconds into “Crown of Love”, and it’s downright wonderful. –Michael Roffman


27. “Haiti”

Funeral (2004)

Indie rock has often been chastised for being too goddamn twee. But man, when it’s earned, it’s really earned, and Arcade Fire earned their indie merit badge from the get-go with songs like “Haiti”. If you’re not whistling along to that whimsical melody, then you’re probably going to end up somewhere in hell. –Michael Roffman


26. “Modern Man”

The Suburbs (2010)

It feels like every artist eventually writes a song about the existential feeling of wanting “something more.” Bryan Ferry did. So did Jakob Dylan. Jay-Z’s made an entire career out of exploiting excess. So, here’s Win Butler, hating the way we live in lines. Think about it: How often are you waiting for the next big thing? It can be an item at a store. Or it can be a BBQ next weekend. Either way, we’re always waiting, and it’s kind of a fucking drag. –Michael Roffman


25. “City with No Children”

The Suburbs (2010)

Just when you thought Arcade Fire’s Springsteen infatuation ended on Neon Bible, in comes this stadium-sized singalong. The muscular guitar and hand-clap percussion are more instantly accessible and straightforward than the band usually is, and the lack of drama does make the song feel a little less important than some of the record’s other tracks. Still, direct is something that Arcade Fire does well, and “City with No Children” feels like a breath of fresh air when compared to the direction the band would take after the album. –Philip Cosores


24. “Here Comes the Night Time”

Reflektor (2013)

Incorporating influences from Arcade Fire’s humanitarian work in Haiti, where Régine Chassagne’s parents are from, “Here Comes the Night Time” doesn’t just take up the sonics of the land, but dives into the locale lyrically. The split in the middle, when the lights finally go down and the tone changes to celebratory and dangerous, reflects the vibe the band found in Port-au-Prince. For those of us who haven’t been there, this is the next best thing. –Philip Cosores


23. “Wasted Hours”

The Suburbs (2010)

When you’re dealing with the lyrical heft that Arcade Fire delves into, there isn’t much room to be light and airy. That’s why “Wasted Hours” feels so cleansing when up against the rest of their catalog. There are lots of examples of the band diving into territory that’s out of their depth. This breezy bit isn’t one of them. –Philip Cosores


22. “Porno”

Reflektor (2013)

Some things in life aren’t free, but porno is, and the world’s never been better off. Ha, wrong. As studies have shown, porn is actually destroying relationships left and right, but the good news is that Win Butler is an exception to the rule. Well, at least if we’re to believe him in “Porno”, the bulbous slice of new wave off Reflektor that finds the singer pleading that he’s not like the other “little boys.” Okay, cough up your reddit app, Mr. Butler. –Michael Roffman


21. “Deep Blue”

The Suburbs (2010)

We’ve heard of Old Man Logan, but Old Man Butler? On “Deep Blue”, Win Butler turns our obsession with technology into a post-apocalyptic metaphor, shouting at everyone to put down their phone and their laptop. In hindsight, it’s funny that a song about becoming a slave to machines ended Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. Fun movie! –Michael Roffman


20. “In the Backseat”

Funeral (2004)

“In the Backseat” passes by like a dream. Régine Chassagne’s vocals soar through sunlit trees as strings frame her romantic poetry — it’s childlike, dream-like, beautiful. But then “Alice died,” and things start to change. She sings about her mother’s death, and the song takes on weight and grows stronger. “I’ve been learning to drive/ My whole life,” she insists, eventually not even needing words. Arcade Fire has always fought against the world’s pains, but rarely has the pain felt this intimate and cathartic. –Lior Phillips


19. “Reflektor”

Reflektor (2013)

When the lead single to Arcade Fire’s fourth album was released, the song signified a dramatic departure. It wasn’t the first time that the group had opted for synths over guitars, but it was the first time they seemed interested in making people dance. Of course, it wasn’t unprecedented. Nabbing David Bowie, a long supporter of the band, to throw in some guest vocals only emphasized that they were following a similar trajectory to their heroes. But now, a few years later, “Reflektor” sounds more connected to early Arcade Fire than it did at the time of its release. What remains is the tension: the desire to build a song slowly enough so that it could arrive at big, cathartic, and unexpected places. –Philip Cosores


18. “Neighborhood #2 (Laïka)”

Funeral (2004)

Back in 2004, indie rock didn’t know it was in for a revolution — let alone one powered in part by accordion and helmet percussion. But then Régine Chassagne squeezed the rich tones that swing the entrance of “Neighborhood #2 (Laika)”, and Richard Reed Parry and Will Butler would cause a ruckus smacking a motorcycle helmet (and each other) with drumsticks. There’s a furious energy to this song, the ultimate distillation of the teens-vs-parents angst that fuels so much of the catalogue. Vampires, police lights, a dog sent out into space, it’s a murky, cathartic drama, and one powered by richly distorted guitars, group-shouted vocals, and, of course, that accordion.–Lior Phillips


17. “Everything Now”

Everything Now (2017)

It’s just a couple months old, and it already might be the most divisive song in the Arcade Fire discography. But it’s hard to argue against its bonafides. At the present, it stands as the band’s biggest radio hit of their career, and for a band on their fifth album that wants to be an arena fixture, that’s exactly what they needed. And the song deserves to be heard widely. The sweeping piano line, the lyrical dive into technologies tied to entitlement, and the disco aesthetic are all memorable, but the truth is that Arcade Fire also just know how to write a hook. Now, they too have everything. –Philip Cosores


16. “No Cars Go”

Arcade Fire EP (2003) / Neon Bible (2007)

A song so sublime, Arcade Fire recorded and released it twice — once on the band’s 2003 self-titled EP, and again on 2007’s Neon Bible. In either version, “No Cars Go” feels like a series of explosions behind you as you’re running hand-in-hand with a group of your best friends. Where are you headed? It’s not exactly clear, but it’s someplace special, someplace where no transportation (neither car, sub, or spaceship) can get you. The update speeds things up and adds lush strings, making it more of an anthem, but the message remains the same: we all need an escape, and we can build a new world together.–Lior Phillips


15. “My Body Is a Cage”

Neon Bible (2007)

A song you can fight, fuck and sob to. “I’m standing on a stage/ Of fear and self-doubt/ It’s a hollow play/ But they’ll clap anyway.” There’s a trance-like stoicism, a delicious lick of self-loathing that fits surprisingly well into Arcade Fire’s wheelhouse, and they seize the occasion to deliver a remarkable, underrated vocal performance. Win Butler might be saying his body is bound, but his voice is raw, biting, and deliciously demented. It’s not so much to flesh out the song as to simply ignite the riding rhythm pulsing beneath the swelling organs that spill into the beat. This song breathes. The goal here is simple: to declare self-doubt and distance from oneself, whilst begging for the chance to salvage the moments when everything felt free, and they succeed mightily. –Lior Phillips


14. “Suburban War”

The Suburbs (2010)

“All my old friends, they don’t know me now.” Of all the songs on The Suburbs and the many moments that tackle a similar theme, none fixes its sights on nostalgia so pitch-perfect as “Suburban War”. People leave home, music divides young people away from each other, and, eventually, everyone grows up. Win Butler sings this like a eulogy, but for every ounce of sadness in the song is a flicker of beauty. It may be a bummer that we grow apart over time, but the memories of our youth are still special. They’re a part of us. –Philip Cosores


13. “Windowsill”

Neon Bible (2007)

Have you ever just stared into your television and felt absolutely nothing? It’s not exactly nihilism, per se, but an overall sense of lifelessness. Eventually, those hollow feelings are filled with genuine emotions, and that’s where we find Win Butler on “Windowsill”. So much of Neon Bible deals with the influence of television and religion, the way they shape and form our society both spiritually and culturally. His disgust with the two mediums are possibly informed by the people he knows best, those who have grown up relying on such mediums, leaning into them like a crutch — a way of life. We know those people. We were raised by them. We work with them. And so, there’s something very relatable about his words here, specifically the way he suggests that such chaos is inescapable, that every recognizable facet of our lives has been compromised. It’s scary. –Michael Roffman


12. “Intervention”

Neon Bible (2007)

It was fitting that the first taste fans had of Neon Bible begins with the long moan of a pipe organ recorded in an old church. For a band not shy about making statements, the gauntlet was laid down with conviction. And there are other things that were indicative of the time, too, including the condemnation of religion and the overt homage to the songwriting style of Bruce Springsteen. But maybe what’s most memorable about “Intervention” is just how full of ease it sounds a decade later. When Arcade Fire are comfortable in their own shoes, there aren’t many bands who can do grandeur better. –Philip Cosores


11. “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)”

Funeral (2004)

“The power’s out in the heart of man/ Take it from your heart/ Put it in your hand.” Arcade Fire delivered rallying cries from the start, and “Power Out” is one of their strongest, urging listeners to express themselves and take action on their feelings before it’s too late. There are so many other lines worth shouting out into the darkness (“Nobody’s cold, nobody’s warm!” “Look at them go, look at them go!” “You ain’t foolin’ nobody with the lights out!”), not to mention the repetition of the hard-charging guitar and looping glockenspiel. Angst and anxiety written large across the sky in burning letters, “Power Out” burns down to its last embers, ready to grind things back up once again. –Lior Phillips


10. “Supersymmetry”

Reflektor (2013)

So much of love is based on perception. Our personal history is essentially defined by our own memories: where we’ve been, who we’ve met, what we’ve accomplished. Relationships are like Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, a seemingly infinite series of events that have so many different emotions and feelings attached to them, all of which change over the years as we age and see things in different ways. “Supersymmetry”, the closing track off Reflektor, wrestles with that notion by turning a past lover into a saved memory. Although the song was originally written for Spike Jonze’s 2013 dramedy, Her, which tells the story of a man who falls in love with an advanced computer operating system, the themes inherent to both that movie and this song are quite universal. The final verse says it all: “It’s been a while since I’ve been to see you/ I don’t know where, but you’re not with me/ Heard a voice, like an echo/ But it came from me.” After all, isn’t that where all love remains? –Michael Roffman


09. “Ready to Start”

The Suburbs (2010)

In its title alone, “Ready to Start” is a powerful affirmation — an aspirational statement of self. That doubles when you consider the things that Win Butler rebuffs. He’s not bored, not scared, not pure, not yours. While other songs faced oppression and darkness looking for a fight, looking for escape, this Suburbs stunner steps out with an open mind, facing down the blood-sucking businessmen and the pretentious art school kids in equal measure. Arcade Fire will refuse expectations and definition at all costs, a singular entity that aims to unite and uplift; there’s a defiance that seeps down to the bone, and here it feels truly cohesive and personal without rallying around stereotypes. Whatever you find yourself up against, whatever challenge looms large, feeling “Ready to Start” is incredibly inspiring.–Lior Phillips


08. “Wake Up”

Funeral (2004)

Within seconds, we’re awake and a rallying war-cry bursts above us, as if from a multicolored confetti cannon. The rest of the song plays out as if frozen in time, a montage of families finding one another, lovers kissing, and kids shouting to the sky. That goddamn 12-string electric guitar grinds the core like a nail across a sheet of steel — we feel everything here. The instrumentation accompanying each word Win Butler sings helps him pierce the gorgeous violin, cello, horn, violin, and harp arrangements that tail him, all courtesy of musical warlock Owen Pallett, Sarah Neufeld, Sophie Trudeau, and Anita Fust. It drifts through several movements, all vying for attention to outdo the last with plump ecstasy. Each wail, pluck, and synth beat adds mesmeric depth to a song that seems fiercely excessive from the start, a gut-punching revelation befitting a sugar high … “Someone told me not to cry.” –Lior Phillips


07. “We Used to Wait”

The Suburbs (2010)

“Things sure aren’t the way they used to be.” At some point, everyone says something along those lines. It’s a sign of age, of growth, of progress. Today, it’s a feeling that’s all too ubiquitous. Technology is moving faster than ever, seemingly eclipsing the human mind, and that’s a terrifying thought to stomach. Naturally, as we struggle to keep up, we subconsciously lose the very things we once cherished and took for granted. “Now our lives are changing fast, hope that something pure can last,” Win Butler cries on “We Used to Wait”, his voice floating over clanging keys, ostensibly serving as an allegory for the monotony of our technological existence. It’s a sterile life, some might argue, at least compared to the days when we’d sit down and think about every word we put to paper. Granted, letters are only one example Butler uses here, but it’s a great one. –Michael Roffman


06. “Keep the Car Running”

Neon Bible (2007)

After their first album got indie rockers raving about accordion and glockenspiel, Arcade Fire upped the ante for “Keep the Car Running”: hurdy-gurdy. The crank-powered string instrument keeps on going, the song rolling forward like the endless miles of highway through Win Butler’s anxious America. A sense of inescapable dread pervades (“It’s coming,” he repeats), of mountains and rivers pinning him in, of everything being the same even in sleep. But if you can keep the car running, maybe just maybe you can outrun “it.” Fellow purveyor of the grit and rock of the North American middle, Springsteen saw cause to cover the tune — fitting, as he’s been singing about getting out on the road to escape your hometown for decades, and has been an essential influence for Arcade Fire. But with “Keep the Car Running”, they take that influence and turn it into a riveting sing-along all their own. –Lior Phillips


05. “The Suburbs”

The Suburbs (2010)

There’s an isolation that comes from living away from any city. The city is progressive. The city is transmutative. In the city, you live and breathe. The suburbs, by comparison, are cold and calculated: the houses, the streets, the people, the places are all uniform. In the opening titular track to Arcade Fire’s third album, Win Butler meditates over the ills of such a life, not only as a child but as a fully functional adult, and he places it in the guise of a suburban war. The jaunty rhythm, which sounds like something ripped straight out of a ’70s Neil Young record, suggests a bed of pleasantries, only there’s an eerie echo to everything. “Meant nothing at all, meant nothing at all,” Butler pines repeatedly, as if he’s staring from the lawn of a house that’s haunted by too much regret, too much spite, too much bitterness. It’s the band’s most striking ballad. –Michael Roffman


04. “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”

Funeral (2004)

Win Butler’s voice has gone through an evolution in the past decade and a half, and this is some of his rawest work — and it benefits from that greatly. While his tonal control has improved, there’s something so honest about the way he grits his teeth to spit out the lines of protest and hope: “As the day grows dim/ I hear you sing a golden hymn.” The subject of the song turns the lead in his head into gold, and he begs to have the colors and his mind purified. The song dips into some post-apocalyptic world-building (forgetting names, tunnels, and the slow, cold winter) but largely rides the wave of love, life, and an escape from harsh reality. And by the time you get to dancing your feet off to the wordless melody at the song’s end, you’ll feel the transcendent power riding through you, ready to escape through the tunnel and into Arcade Fire’s world.–Lior Phillips


03. “Afterlife”

Reflektor (2013)

Love can feel like life or death. Between our first breath and our last, it marks one of our biggest motivators, pushing us to the irrational and drawing out parts of ourselves we didn’t even know existed. And when it’s gone, it can be enough to drive the joy straight out of living. “When love dies, where does it go?” Win Butler asks in the chorus of “Afterlife”, with the title of the song acting much more as a hope than a reality. It stands side-by-side with a bigger question: “Where do we go?” The fleeting nature of love is as mysterious as the fleeting nature of life, and the fact that both can suddenly disappear gives them meaning. But on this song, somehow these topics are approached with insight that is far from heavy-handed. Sure, the presentation, including James Murphy’s production flair and Régine Chassagne’s ghostly backing vocals, add to sum. But it’s that question, of not knowing whether death is the beginning or the end, that Arcade Fire pose with a sense of legitimate wonder. In “Afterlife”, the greatest mysterious remain mysteries, just as they should. –Philip Cosores


02. “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”

The Suburbs (2010)

People talk about the collective talent of Arcade Fire, but “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” encompasses more than their inescapable technical mastery. It amasses all the strengths of their past, an erupting nervous system of all the corporeal energy from years of creating. They point it like a sorcerer’s wand, up toward the sky, toward a future we hadn’t allowed our minds to envision yet. At the heart of this song are two complementary forces of love and will: a hopeful love for the future requires a willful pledge to overcome the mountainous problems we face in our present, to break through despair. Régine Chassagne pleads with us to push past our present tumult: “Can we ever get away from the sprawl?” It’s a real conflict within our personal (and political) lives, one that requires enough strength to transcend the doubt and unpredictability that we face. A ticking rhythmic belt slaps the ground; it burrows, corroding the darkness and uprooting evil. This is a song that acknowledges the judgment swimming on the surface, whilst rebelling against merely “punching the clock” — allowing us to take anchor in its depths. And by the anthemic coda, we’re swept along on a tide of synth and piano toward a land we conquered for ourselves. –Lior Phillips


01. “Rebellion (Lies)”

Funeral (2004)

If you wanted to pinpoint why Arcade Fire became a success and why we still care about them, it all hinges on “Rebellion (Lies)”. It wasn’t the song that first got them on the radio, or the song that became licensed for NFL spots. It was the song that burrowed into the imagination of rock fans and displayed a band capable of, well, anything. The heartbeat percussion and the steady build in tension grows into a cathartic hurricane, with every element — strings, harmonies, lyrics — playing to the band’s strengths. It was the song the band hit the Coachella stage and bled passion in front of a giant audience, the song that would often close their shows with the sensational feeling that music can, and should, be bigger than any band or audience can hope for. And for a band with dozens of anthems, it’s more than that. On Funeral, it was a treatise in possibility. Years later, it’s one of the best rock songs of all time. –Philip Cosores

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