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Ranking: Every Arcade Fire Song from Worst to Best

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

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.

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    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)

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    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)

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    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)

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    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)

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    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)

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    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)

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    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)

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    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)

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    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)

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    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)

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    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)

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    “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


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