la nuit mes yeux t'éclairent
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Yesterday, we argued about James Joyce. Today, we talk about the Arcade Fire.

Win has given his blessing to the following transmission, and you can look forward to another amazing track to be posted two amazing tracks have been posted over at Keith's. At last, I can make a proper post about Funeral, my favourite album of 2004-so-far.

Regular readers of Said the Gramophone will be familiar with the Arcade Fire, and my hysteria about them. I've been attending their shows since late 2000 (i think) - I've heard the band learn, grow, flame up and burn out. Two years ago, I wrote a mediocre piece for tangmonkey called "Three Albums To Watch". Forget what I said about Radiohead and Sigur Ros, but the third album on the list of hotly anticipated records was the debut by the Arcade Fire. I spelled Régine Chassagne's name wrong, and I wrote this:

As I listen to The Arcade Fire, their music touches on the sublime: that approach of terror, of true awe, when the music seems enough to overtake you.
and this:
If The Arcade Fire's LP approaches anywhere near the hallelujah of their live performances, it will be the album of the year.
Their debut, self-titled EP was not the album of the year. It was a delicious treat, a taste of the golden apple, but the songs were marred by their production, and (it seems) from intra-band strife.

But Funeral, which is due this month on Merge, is no disappointment. It reaches the "hallelujah" of the live show, it shakes and shines and roars. The band no longer sounds anything like Neutral Milk Hotel. Now - as Win always spoke of - it's the Talking Heads with pop-song garlands, Neil Young with New Order, rock music that slips through night streets, singing to the stars with long curls of strings. It's rock'n'roll with a bit of Debussy and even some disco stomp. While electric guitars snarl, harps glimmer; while drums thunder, accordions grin. It's music that's brave, earnest, and that yearns desperately to be heard. You can read the biographical info in this excellent Exclaim cover-story, but as Howard says, "The Arcade Fire are not five kids who listened to the same ten indie rock records."

Also, the album itself - the packaging, the liner notes, - is beautiful. Full of craft and spirit and the sort of whimsical flourishes that turn things into treasures.

So. Here are some samples. And I hope that you'll listen to these tracks, buy the record, see them on tour (with the Hidden Cameras or without), and maybe understand what I'm so worked up about. What I meant when I said something as ebullient as this:

this new thing - this awesome, driven, clear-eyed music - is as fine as anything else in the whole world ... It's liver and wholer and smarter. It feels, and it fills, and it's got choruses that you can sing along to.
or (yes, another self-quote!), this:
It's the beauty of a thunderclap, an avalanche, of the earth breaking under your feet. No more do they cajole you: they shake, they threaten, they yell, they plead. "WAKE UP." Parents, children, siblings, lovers, lonelies, human fucking beings - WAKE.

The Arcade Fire - "Tunnels (Neigborhood #1)". My sister says it's the best song she's heard this year. And my sister doesn't say things like that. This is what opens Funeral, the tune that saunters out of the wood, slips into the starting blocks, and then lightnings into your heart. When the high-hats break out between those guitars, that fierce realisation of a destination, there's suddenly magic loose. And when the steel drums ring like synths or The Edge or Joy Division or aurora borealis or something, the chorus becomes a necessity, a truth I need Win Butler to sing. I'm caught up in it, struggling through those snow-tunnels, lying in other peoples' beds and dreaming fearing screaming. He sings of parents - "What ever happened to them?!" - but when he yells it, I hear something different: "WHAT THE HELL WE GONNA DO!?" It's a song to dance to, to sing to ("ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh"), for cresting love or overwhelming faith. And when at 3:20 we hear that bit of the chorus that's never been sung before, that glorious new rise, I feel like a door's opening up in the sky, a bright goldredgreenblue window: "the song I've been trying to say." [pre-order Sept 3]

The Arcade Fire - "7 Kettles (Neighborhood #4)". Funeral is an album of extraordinary breadth - "Power Out" has Modest Mouse's fury, ""Haiti" has the Sugacubes's smoulder, "Une année sans lumière" keeps some U2 gleam. And "7 Kettles" is acoustic guitars and whispering violin, a ballad whose foundation reaches deep into hills, over and across horizons. It could be a song of loneliness, of faith. But it's probably not. "Woo," Win says quietly, like he's calling to his horses. Kettles whistle. "It's not a lover I want no more. And it's not heaven I'm pining for. But there's some spirit I used to know, that's been drowned out by the radio." Some might snark that "7 Kettles" is about the need for indie rock's ascendancy, for Britney's tumble. But that's stupid. No, this is a dream of kindness and soul, a hopesong for art and community and love. Tenderly they play. They hope so deeply, so strongly. They ache so gold. Let's go home, let's find home. Please. [pre-order Sept 3]

At Teaching the Indie Kids to Dance Again, you can listen to the crunch and sparkle of "Laika" - accordion, dissonant-smooth strings, the churn of guitars. (Dig the spooky vox at 1:50.) You must also grab "Crown of Love," one of the album's highest points. It's a half-cracked waltz, a desperate one-two-three into the evening. As the love and heartbreak soar, the strings are suddenly pushing, the drums are kicking up dust, and we're dancing into that imagined future. Hold on to your hat, clutch your chest.

Keith's right about the way that Win's vocals have matured, but it's also worth saying that on two songs, Régine leads the way - heartfelt, insistent, a little otherworldly.

10:17am update: stream some more tracks courtesy of Merge. (via catbirdseat.)

Word has it that Howard Bilerman, the Arcade Fire's drummer, has left the band. He also helped record Funeral - exceptionally. And he guest-blogged here last week. I'd simply like to thank him again for his kindness, his grace, his work, and his art. Best of luck in everything to come.


Here is Elsewhere has some snippets of what sounds like a really beautiful remix project -- a Manitoba-like revisitation of the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind soundtrack. RealAudio samples are available.

Finally, as Sean the sell-out, I invite you all to check out Hip-O Select, an mail-order site with all sorts of rarities, imports and classic records. From Abba to James Brown to Fela Kuti. Click on the banner to hear some streamed tunes, and to help my chances for a 20G iPod reward.

Posted by Sean at September 1, 2004 3:00 AM

And Crown of Love/Laika is up.

Posted by Keith at September 1, 2004 7:57 AM

the arcade fire songs are wonderful Sean.

lots of times when i listen to music i get hit with a sudden urge to listen to something else that is unrelated to the artist i am listening.
when listening to arcade fire and reading your post it was Todd Rundgren. weird.

Posted by bmr at September 1, 2004 8:51 AM

I heard this album a few weeks ago at Cheap Thrills here in Montreal, and knew it would be something special. The clerk (who also runs Alien8 records, The Unicorn's label) jokingly offered to sell it to me a month in advance for $50. It didn't seem so ludicrous at the time, and I considered it for a few seconds. I ultimately decided I would rather wait.

Then just today I was feeling a very strong craving to hear some of it, and was very pleased to see it up here. Your timing could not have been better, Sean. Thanks.

Posted by Neale at September 1, 2004 11:44 AM

God bless this blog

Posted by cody at September 1, 2004 2:11 PM

Okay, now we hit paydirt in the "something we agree on" department! I picked up a promo of this disc in the used bin at a local L.A. record shop, and it's been glued into my CD player since. The music is amazing, the packaging is gorgeous -- I love tracing that silver line across the cardboard case-- but what sends this disc over the edge for me are the lyrics. It's such an awesome suprise when an indie rock band comes off as smart and knowing without being arch and ironic. This is definitely one of the albums of the year. Every track is a home run.

And Sean, no hard feelings about the JJ I hope. I still love this blog, you know. Keep it up.

Posted by Softly Weeping at the Oki Dog at September 1, 2004 2:59 PM

Muchos gracias, compadre! I have to get my hands on the AF album.

Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)... What can I say? This song is a collossal anthem that darts and dodges away from modern rock clichés. It is a milkman being lifted by the lapels into a clear blue windex sky. Having heard it, I am satiated and my eyes are rolled back in my head. (Or is that just the drugs?) :)

Thanks, Sean.

Hey, did you hear the new Wolf Parade CD yet? I wrote a semi-readable review on my blog. It's located @


Posted by Jeremy Brendan at September 1, 2004 3:32 PM

Thanks Sean... I remember you mentioning these guys before, and I had to check them out. At first they really didn't catch my ear, but after about a week or so I just couldn't stop listening to them. So thanks.

So far my favorite song is Laika, mainly cause of the accordian... I guess I'll have to check out their EP too then, huh?

Posted by Eric Rojas at September 1, 2004 4:47 PM

Like it, don't love it. I'm hearing traces of BSS, Modest Mouse, and vocally, Joel Plaskett. Good stuff.

(I think the lyrics are arch, though. Sorry. "We remember bedrooms? Parents' bedrooms? Friends' bedrooms? Hmm.)

Posted by Paul at September 1, 2004 7:08 PM

P.S., Wolf Parade has me a LOT more curious to hear a full-length than these guys.

Posted by Paul at September 1, 2004 7:09 PM

I HEART the crap out of the Arcade Fire thanks to you and Keith. Thanks.

Posted by Scott at September 1, 2004 7:39 PM

Didn't you already win an iPod this summer? :-)

Posted by Andrew at September 1, 2004 9:22 PM

Thaaaaank yoooooou!

Posted by forksclovetofu at September 2, 2004 3:28 AM

Finally, I can have a taste of this band. They're coming at the right time, that's for sure, after the amazing success of Franz Ferdinand. Like a drunk genius busker fronting a random melodic orchestra, but it works, and builds...

Posted by Matthew at September 2, 2004 5:31 AM

sean - thanks for the preview of arcade fire's 'funeral' (that doesn't sound right somehow. maybe they should call the album 'birth'). my interest is growing and i intend on catching them live as soon as possible.
i did a post on a couple of tracks and 8 minute interview with the entire band done at U of Guelph's campus radio. catch it here -


Posted by alan at September 2, 2004 1:55 PM

Just my rotten luck. The streaming tracks are down (404 file not found!) so I'll have to wait for my promo copy which is in the mail. I'm surprised that I haven't seen any major news outlets reviewing this yet, except a couple of radio stations online (in the US mostly).

Exclaim will definately review the LP but maybe they're waiting a week or so.

Posted by Jeremy Brendan at September 13, 2004 12:53 AM

Could anyone send me or post her the lyrics to the song - Tunnels. (the first song on the recording)

Posted by tomek at September 15, 2004 8:22 PM

Does anybody know why? I can't believe that this is really true!
But often the things are not as they seem to be in this coloured world...

Posted by Dominic at May 6, 2005 12:30 PM

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This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. Please go out and buy the records.

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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

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Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

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