“All right. We’re the flavor of the month. Let’s go.”
That was Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler in 2004, dismissing the buzz that had engulfed his scrappy Canadian band as a momentary joke. He could not have been more wrong. (Well, maybe if he’d written this 2003 headline about Beyoncé… but that’s a different story.)
From 2004’s Funeral onward, Arcade Fire has defended its title as the most inventive, colorful and emotionally resonant band of its generation, exploring organized religion (Neon Bible) and suburban desperation (The Suburbs) with passion and yelps. Now, as the band promotes a surprisingly lackluster new record, we decided to go through the back catalog and rank the 20 best songs.
There’s a whole lot of Funeral on this list. We’re not sorry for that.
20. “Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)” (2004)
Though it may be the least raucous of the four “Neighborhood” tracks on Funeral, we’re going to go ahead and say that “#4” features the most soothing use of a tea kettle in the history of recorded music. Sound off in the comments if you have a better example. —Ryan Bort
19. “Black Mirror” (2007)
As the opening track to Neon Bible, “Black Mirror” is a song that sneaks up on you. Sure, there’s the creeping piano line, and those cavernous background noises that seem to echo from inside a ship’s hull. But not until Win Butler wails, “Mine is the only kind that I relate to!” do you truly feel the song’s desperation. —Claire Shaffer
18. “Wake Up” (2004)
“Wake Up” all but invented the now-ubiquitous “WHOA-OH!” refrain—a dangerous legacy, but a song so great you can’t blame it for the atrocities it’s inspired. Overpowering in its melodic exhilaration, this Funeral cut serves proof that Arcade Fire was destined for stadiums even when it was playing random cafés. It has soundtracked major sporting events, movie trailers (see: Where the Wild Things Are),…