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12 Arcade Fire Songs You Should Listen To

12 arcade fire songs to listen to music lifestyle book blog uk vivatramp

After my very public Twitter outpouring of all the feels over Arcade Fire's performance at Glastonbury a couple of weeks ago, I thought it was about time I blogged about my love for them. I'm going to be sharing a selection of my favourite tracks with you before looking at them within both their personal and wider musical context. This isn't a definitive list. I keep going back to swap songs around because there are so many more that I'd love to mention but I'm just going to leave it as it is. Arcade Fire split people's opinions, I know, but their music is something I can connect with and take comfort from and I think that's something that all music-listeners can respect. This post won't be for everyone but, like I said in this tweet, you lot don't want me to sit here and tell you about things that I don't particularly care for so sod it! People often ask me how I can stay so positive in the face of really shitty things and the answer can be found in a lot of these songs for me so stick around, eh?! I've included all the live Glasto links alongside the album versions of the songs because, in my opinion, they deserve to be heard live too! Enjoy.

keep the car running {neon bible - 2007} 

keep the car running at glastonbury 2014
Lets start with the song that effectively acts as my musical comfort blanket, shall we?! Taken from their second album, Neon Bible, Keep The Car Running explores the increasing anxiety and uncertainty of its narrator, drawing upon their own nighttime fears to explain their place in a seemingly unsettled world - Men are coming to take me away. I don't know why but I know I can't stay. Almost epistolic in their tone, they speak openly about their concerns, reassuring their love that if some day they aren't there anymore, they won't be too far away:  If some night I don't come home, please don't think I've left you alone. They worry that this unnamed force will take them away before they have really lived, insisting that they won't be able to experience an afterlife or experience any fulfillment post-death. Despite its dystopian themes, Keep The Car Running is very human in its sentiment. The very idea of keeping the car running for someone even when they seem their most distant, helpless and unsure is incredibly beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that in the 7 years I've been listening to this song, I've yet to listen along and not cry or experience that cold sensation down my spine. This song has pulled me out of a lot of dark places. I remember listening to it in hospital, drinking in the lyrics before crawling out of my bed and using my zimmer frame unaided for the first time. That was the first time in my entire hospital stay that I actually allowed myself to think about the future and all of the things I still had to do and say. For that reason, I will always cherish this song and this band and everything they've given me.  Whenever I'm going through a tough time, I always remind myself to keep the car running no matter how scared or hurt I feel and I encourage you to do so too!

sprawl ii (mountains beyond mountains) {the suburbs - 2010}
sprawl ii (mountains beyond mountains) at glastonbury 2014
This song is my jam. If there's one song that makes me get up and prance around, it's this one. Hell, it even makes me throw my hands up in the air like I just don't care! It's impossible to put this song on and not dance, I'm telling you. As much as I adore Win's southern drawl, Régine brings an incredible amount of life and passion to everything she sets her mind to and her up-beat personality is splashed all over this song. Sprawl II is essentially about being the authentic version of you and maintaining an open and creative mind in a world that, despite being so big, can come across as so small in its thinking and approach. The incredibly sweet and ridiculously talented Régine just tells you to go for it, cut the lights every once in a while if you need to but, ultimately, get out there, be driven by your passions and stay true to yourself. I think these are sentiments that we all need to remember every once in a while because it's ridiculously easy to invest in the suburban limitations that the rest of the album touches on. It's pretty much a modern day Blondie song in its sound - perfect for dancing to but ballsy in its message. This is how all pop songs should sound, basically. You seriously need to click the link above and watch their Glasto performance because they're playing a ridiculously energetic remix of it lately and Régine is just a fantastic performer. Altogether now: they heard me singing and they told me to stoppppp!

reflektor {reflektor - 2013}
Reflektor at glastonbury 2014
On a basic level, Reflektor is a fucking spectacular pop song. I mean, seriously, it has David Bowie on backing vocals for god's sake! Every single track on Reflektor, the album, sounds like it should be part of a soundtrack to a deliciously dark epic set in a discotheque and Reflektor is certainly no exception. With its pulsating depth and disco hall energy, it twists and turns in such a way that completely separates it from the majority of music around at the moment. Reflektor still sounds as fresh and exciting as it did on my first listen all those months ago and that's how I know it'll become one of those songs that I refer to as being 'completely timeless' once a decade is up.  It's very easy to look at the lyrics through the lens of discontent, particularly with regards to the lack of true connection and engagement in the digital age. I'm sure a lot of people could do with thinking about the lyric: We're so connected but are we even friends?! In the digital age, with more and more technological advances being made every single day, how can we really practice faith in humble ideas, as well as experience an honest transcendence through the traditional arts?! However, I think it represents a much bigger fear, addressing transcendence on a much wider scale. I think Reflektor came around at a really great time for me. I was feeling pretty disillusioned by my life and my future and I didn't know what I wanted to focus on. I felt like it grabbed me and forced me to look at myself and work out what I found wholesome. I cut out a lot of people and a lot of negative energy, as a result. Even if you don't connect to the lyrics on a personal level, you can't deny that Arcade Fire know how to make a well-balanced pop song. 

it's never over (Hey Orpheus) {reflektor - 2013}

it's never over (hey orpheus) AT GLASTONBURY 2014
Holy shit, this song is great. It almost makes me feel like I'm drowning in a warm sea, or floating through space.  Is that a perfectly normal reaction?! It's Never Over tells the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, an ancient Greek myth about a pair of doomed lovers. After falling into a nest of vipers, Eurydice is sent to the underworld which leaves Orpheus devastated. However, after softening a few hearts, Orpheus is given permission to rescue his love back from the underworld but only on the condition that he does not turn to look at her whilst they walk back to the overworld. Unfortunately, as the lyrics suggest, things go a bit tits up: We stood beside a frozen sea, I saw you out in front of me. Reflected light, a hollow moon, Oh Orpheus! It's over too soon. Orpheus looks back and his love is banished for eternity. Despite its archaic context, It's Never Over has an incredibly modern sound, with a haunting bassline and instinctive beat carrying it throughout. This song is really great if you're in need of a bit of perspective, with Win's soft little whispers offering up a slice of reality with every listen: Seems like a big deal now but you will get over. This song is just absolutely incredible. Period.

rebellion (lies) {funeral - 2004}
rebellion (lies) AT GLASTONBURY 2014
Rebellion (Lies) is one of my favourite Arcade Fire songs of all time because it is just so angst ridden and unapologetic and fun and it has ooh's in it...What more could you want from a song?! The lyrics predominately concern a personal revolution of sorts, encouraging the listener to seize the day as it were and fight for what they believe in: Sleeping is giving in, no matter what the time is. Sleeping is giving in, so lift those heavy eyelids. It addresses the many messages that are fed to us on a daily basis, namely the bullshit opinions of privileged beings, and it asks us to indulge in rational thought and think about finding our own truth in things. The reality isn't so bad, after all: Here's the sun, it's alright. Here's the moon, it's alright! I always listen to this when I begin a project because it just ignites something within me. Rebellion is seriously punchy and undoubtedly one of AF's catchiest songs so grab whatever utensils you can and drum the living hell out of them. I also recommend bouncing around wildly with your arms flailing screaming 'lies!' at the top of your voice. It's great - try it! This song, like many others, is best heard live. Check the above link out and watch Will running around the stage with a massive drum. 

neighbourhood #3 (power out) {funeral - 2004}

neighbourhood #3 (power out) AT GLASTONBURY 2014
Power Out is a punchy manifesto-esque anthem that has such an endearing fluidity to it despite being full of anxiety and uncertainty. The frustrated lyrics talk about the disillusionment of a generation, touching on addressing sociopolitical issues with physical action whilst the older generation look to some higher being to save them: I went out into the night, I went out to find some light. I like to pop this on when I'm feeling a bit tense and just need to bounce my anger away. They've absolutely nailed the live version so, again, I would encourage you to watch it. This song is mindblowingly good. Take it from your heart, put it in your hand.

neighbourhood #1 (tunnels) {funeral - 2004}
Tunnels is narrated by a young person who is deeply in love with someone else in their neighbourhood. They live in uncertain and hopeless times but to remedy this they agree to meet in the town square one evening, to indulge their imaginations and to create a 'better' world for themselves. They create a world that makes sense to them, a world based on nostalgia for days gone by and child-like desires: I'll dig a tunnel, from my window to yours. This is one of Arcade Fire's most sentimental and romantic songs and I find it ridiculously endearing. I think my favourite thing about this song is the way in which it looks at idealistic youthful love in a way that's respectful rather than patronising. It perfectly explores how, in any relationship, you are able to share and explore a world with someone - no matter how fictional. It also notes that, through love, it's possible to change another mind for better: You change all the lead, sleeping in my head. I think the idea of having access to someone else's head space and just enjoying every part of someone else's being is just beautiful. This is totally getting played at my hypothetical wedding, guys. Tunnels is just absolutely stunning, in every possible way and I think it'll always have a special place in my heart as it's the first song on their first proper album. This is another song that they perform incredibly well so you should totally check out the live link, if only to see Will Butler and his seriously adorable tambourine playing skills. 

my body is a cage {neon bible - 2007}
My body is a cage that keeps me from dancing with the one I love but my mind holds the key. This is probably one of their most relateable songs for me, as I often feel like my body restricts me somewhat. There's an incredible amount of religiosity to the songs on this album as they recorded it in an old church so it's no wonder that this song sounds like a hymn of sorts. I've struggled with anxiety since I was at junior school but, as I've got older, that anxiety has adapted to the new struggles that I've encountered. I find that my anxiety can suffocate me at times and really stand in the way of the things I want to do and I think the lyrics capture that feeling perfectly: I'm standing on a stage of fear and self-doubt. It's a hollow play but they'll clap anyway.  Win melodiously begs for his body to be set free and some days I just have to howl along with him! Win's vocals really shine on this song and you should totally check out the unplugged version because it's just phenomenal.

ready to start {the suburbs - 2010}

ready to start at glastonbury 2014
The premise is pretty much along the same lines of Sprawl II; However, instead of focusing on wider social problems, Ready To Start looks at ambition and the tension it can create within closer relationships. I think everyone has felt restricted or judged by someone else so this is entirely relateable. I think one of the most poignant lyrics on the whole album stems from this song: I would rather be alone than pretend I feel alright. That lyric pretty much defined my life a few years ago. I was going through a tough time and I began closing in on myself, preferring to sit alone rather than having to sit in a room full of people and still feel as empty. I feel like this song helped me to take some risks, get a bit of help and face a few things that I'd been trying to ignore in order to reach my potential and feel a bit more fulfilled. I owe a lot to this band, as you can probably tell. Listen to this song if you need to have a bit more courage in your convictions, step out into the dark and go for it despite what outside influences may think or feel. You are great. 

no cars go {neon bible - 2007}
One of the re-occurring messages throughout Arcade Fire's records is that no matter how bad you feel right now, there's a place or a person or a piece of art or a particular moment you can go to that will keep you for a while until you feel more comfortable or more safe. I think that sentiment is perfectly captured in No Cars Go, with lyrics that muse on the safe spaces that we may let pass us by peppering the grandiose sound:  Between the click of the light and the start of the dream. Despite having its fair share of beautiful lyrics, the song doesn't heavily rely on them but, then again, it really doesn't need to. The idea of transcendence and calm is further expressed through the melodic repetition throughout, mimicking a dream-like state that listeners can lose themselves in before waking up for the stunning climax. However, this track's sublimity is something that hits you in the face within the first thirty seconds and you spend the rest of the song with a warm heavy heart. This song is a comfort blanket for all my sleepy anxieties.  If you need reminding that there's a place for you, this song is the one you should gravitate well as my email address 'cause I'm always up for a chat.  

normal person {reflektor - 2013}

normal person AT GLASTONBURY 2014
I could have picked any number of songs from Reflektor to feature rather than Normal Person but I thought I'd go with it because it has got a bit of a different sound and, as such, it may be accessible to a different set of people than the other tracks I've featured. This is basically 15 year old Bee in a song, with lyrics bursting full of angst and ~heavy~ guitar breakdowns galore! I've always had a wise head on my shoulders so I've never really felt like I can really relate to the majority of my age group. Don't get me wrong, I'm ridiculously irresponsible and I'm in no way mature but I feel like I know what things you should actually give a shit about and what you shouldn't. That's something that I think a lot of twenty somethings I know still need to grasp. As a kid, I never really worried about my appearance or what was cool or whatever. I just did me and put up with the first rate douche canoes that just had to say something about it. Normal Person will be relateable to anyone that has ever faced similar scrutiny. I prescribe wacking this on first thing in the morning and bouncing along to it whilst your bread gets toasty in the toaster. Oh, and make sure you shout when they get excited, they try to hide it, look at those normals go! between sips of tea. The best way to start a day. I love how this song doesn't just address normal in a way that suggests there is a sort of normality that we should all subscribe to as well. It comes right out and says I've never really ever met a normal personIf you like the heavier notes to this song, you may also want to check out Month Of May


Wake Up barely needs any introduction because it's probably Arcade Fire's most widely known and played song, with very good reason. It's probably my favourite song of all time and you know how much I hate picking favourites! This song is pretty much an epic poem in its own right - an emotional behemoth of an anthem that always leaves me in absolute awe. When certain things happen to you in life, it's very easy to harbour all of the trauma and hate and abuse until that pressure completely changes you as a person, as the song suggests: Children don't grow up. Our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up. The lyrics in this song address that repression, exploring what it means to muse on these feelings for so long before saying hey, do you know what, it's okay to let go and let the light in now. Wake Up featured on their first album, Funeral, and it was written at a time when a lot of the band members were grieving for late family members and contemplating how to move on from that. Wake Up was their way of placing themselves in the here and now before working out how to adjust and see things clearer, eventually realising a way out: With my lightnin' bolts a glowin', I can see where I am goin'. The overall message being that if you push through as hard as you can, you'll get there eventually. In the 10 years that I've been listening to that lyric, I've come to really admire the song's sentiment and hopeful message. You will usually find me cry-shouting along to this song, before bopping away when it descends into Town Called Malice-y frivolity. Despite performing this thousands of times, their live version is always an absolute spectacle and it's no wonder they usually end their set with it. Wake Up is absolutely incredible and I struggle to believe that anyone could dislike this song.  You better look out below!

There you have it! Massive thank you if you've made it this far. Go and listen to all their albums, their EP, covers and b-sides too because they're all really great. If you're a fellow Arcade Fire fan, let me know what your favourite songs are in the comments. If you aren't a fan, let me know what band or what songs mean a great deal to you. Thanks for letting me share one of my passions with you! I'd just like to point out that I'm not entirely Dickensian, despite all of my melancholy anecdotes I've shared today. I'm just one of those people that is drawn to music when I'm a bit sad. I've really enjoyed writing this post - even if it did take me about 14 hours and 8 rewatches of their Glasto set! Please forgive all of the inevitable typos! Ha  



  1. Wow, great post :) really enjoyed reading it (maybe even as much as you enjoyed writing it?!) I love Arcade Fire, especially Wake Up and Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels) from your list, but I also like The Suburbs and We Used To Wait. Saw them at Leeds Festival in 2010 and it was brilliant, seems like only yesterday! Sarah x

    1. Thank you so much for being so kind! I'm really glad you enjoyed it and, yes, I really enjoyed writing it! The Suburbs and We Used To Wait are great songs with some really poignant lyrics - good choices!

  2. What an amazing post, and it's so lovely to see such a appraisal of Arcade Fire in the blogosphere. An incredible band, with sounds to suit every mood. I adore Neighbourhood #1 and I've been loving Oh Orpheus off their latest album.

    Brilliant post!

    Zoe xx

  3. Ohhhhhhhhh I love Arcade Fire so damn much. This post is spectacular <3

    Megan /

  4. There is so much feeling that pours from this post, Bee, I think it's marvellous you chose to introduce such passion to us, and to share your love for Arcade Fire. Though I'm still not a fan (I always get a little too caught up in the voice and, if I don't like it, I can't get past it!) I have watched the vids (and learnt they have a female member, and that Sprawl II is theirs - which I love, by the way!) and am actually going to sit and have a read through the lyrics, because they sound beautiful. I do so wish I could get along with Win's voice!

    You are the best.

  5. Ready To Start and Afterlife are my favorites! I would love to see them perform.

  6. They were just spectacular at Glastonbury - looked like they were born to play the Pyramid Stage and we were just amazed they played non-stop for 25 minutes!
    I must admit (and feel free to accuse me of jumping on the bandwagon) I'd only heard a few of their songs before Glasto, kind of liked them but didn't really know a huge amount of their stuff. Since the festival though, I've listed to all their stuff non-stop! As well as what you've listed, I'd add in Joan of Arc and Flashbulb Eyes to my faves.
    Weirdly though as well, back when Six Feet Under was on TV, I loved Cold Winds (it's on the TV show's second soundtrack CD) and hadn't actually made the connection that that was Arcade Fire! :-) xx

  7. This post has made me completely fall in love with Arcade Fire. So beautifully written, thanks Bee! x

  8. I always find it so hard to connect with someone if they can't name a song that defined a moment in their life. I think, for me personally, music will always be such a huge part of my life, and I will always listen to certain songs and be whisked away into that moment. Arcade Fire are a brilliant band, I'd love to see them live as I bet the atmosphere would be incredible! I can't accept that Funeral came out ten years ago, though...

    Chelsea x


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