The Arcade Fire

Not a rock band, not a pop band, but not an orchestra, either: The Arcade Fire's sprawling debut album, Funeral, wanders through too many genres to net a simple description, although "frickin' amazing" might do the trick. In an era that expects buzz bands to add as many instruments as humanly possible, The Arcade Fire stands tall where the Polyphonic Spree, the Flaming Lips and countless others have overreached. Strings, pianos and choirs never sound excessive or tacked-on, but rather wholly integral to the emotional energy that Funeral is charged with for its 48-minute run. The band isn't afraid to unleash unfiltered rock, either, such as "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)," which sounds like a mash-up of The Decemberists and Midnight Oil covered in gasoline and set aflame. "Crown of Love" plays out like a prom slow-dance until a disco dance-off punctuates its climax, and "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" resembles a John Williams remix of a Walkmen song. Most important are Funeral's stories, as singer/multi-instrumentalist Win Butler's regret and sadness over the death of his friends possess a dignity that would make any emo-crooner jealous. The emotional furor is as confident as the height songwriting reaches, and such a combination for The Arcade Fire's first time out already makes me impatient for their next release.

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