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Arcade Fire's aptitude for grand motifs accentuates the melancholy of suburban life on their latest. While The Funeral found Win Butler’s band carrying the weight of the world, followed by Neon Bible's introspective attempt to reconcile it, The Suburbs mirrors a disparaging reality of sprawling strip malls, inevitable change, mundane contentment, loss, and despair. "All my old friends, they don't know me now..." mourns a forlorn Butler on “Suburban War.”

Although stormy skies loom in the distance for much the album, the collection showcases a cautiously optimistic Arcade Fire at their moody best. While you won't find the fervent surges of “Wake Up” or “Power Out,” there's still much scenery on the 63-minute ride to absorb.

Highlights include the punkish “Month of May” and the pleasing synth-pop of “Sprawl II,” on which Butler's wife Régine Chassagne ethereally exclaims, “Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains, and there's no end in sight.”

Arcade Fire's strengths remain attuned to the seven members' restraint, allowing the music to breathe and take root before blossoming into grander ideas that recur throughout the album. There's a cyclical comfort to The Suburbs, like returning to your childhood bedroom, a bit older and, hopefully, a bit wiser.

  • Album: The Suburbs (2010)
  • Artist: Arcade Fire
  • Label: Merge Records
  • Songs: (1) The Suburbs (2) Ready to Start (3) Modern Man (4) Rococo (5) Empty Room (6) City with No Children (7) Half Light I (8) Half Light II (No Celebration) (9) Suburban War (10) Month of May (11) Wasted Hours (12) Deep Blue (13) We Used to Wait (14) Sprawl I (Flatland) (15) Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) (16) The Suburbs (Continued)
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