Arcade Fire – Funeral

2/10 My second album moves the timeline from early childhood to late elementary school and early high school. With due respect to Fall Out Boy’s “From Under the Cork Tree” and Hot Hot Heat’s “Make Up the Breakdown,” both excellent in their own right and huge to me at the time, this is the first album that I ever truly loved.

Arcade Fire released “Funeral” in 2004, right when iTunes and LimeWire were in their heydays. No one “introduced” me to Funeral, per se, but even in elementary school I had friends that were immeasurably cooler than I was, and remain immeasurably cooler than I can hope to be. Their incredibly refined (at 12 years old!) taste in music is what pushed me away from the Barenaked Ladies and Great Big Sea and towards the alt-rock that would be my go-to genre for 4+ years.

My first introduction to “Funeral” came by way of ‘Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out),’ which I found by scrolling through the iTunes Canadian Alternative Rock charts (lots of good stuff there in ‘04!). I quickly downloaded it onto my shared iPod Mini (baby blue), and was struck by how alien it seemed to me. Yearning, bordering on pained, vocals from Win Butler backed up by layers of instruments – not just guitar and drums but also violin, cello, harp, and xylophone. I was hooked immediately and dove right back to download as many other Arcade Fire songs as I could find – the Neighbourhood suite, the tropical and humid ‘Haiti,’ the broken-down waltz ‘Crown of Love.’ In what was certainly a product of this very specific time, I don’t think I heard “Funeral” sequenced properly until at least 2 years later – having the album start with the indelible piano ballad ‘Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels),’ and end with the fuzzed-out dreamscape of ‘In the Backseat’ make it even better. In the meantime, though, I did a French project on the meditative and bilingual ‘Une Année Sans Lumière,’ and a music project on the driving paean to sleeplessness ‘Rebellion,’ hoping to get more people to listen to Arcade Fire (I think?? maybe i just wanted to be cool).

“Funeral” was a unique album when it was released, earnest and joyful and messy at a time when it was cool in the indie sphere to be disaffected and arch (see Strokes, The). A lot of music that came after Funeral tried desperately to BE “Funeral,” all while Arcade Fire slowly moved away from it, recording albums that were less personal, more political, and never quite as good (although “Neon Bible” comes close sometimes). If you haven’t heard it, I would check it out.

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