Arcade Fire: The Suburbs

When Arcade Fire, a Canadian indie rock band, burst onto the popular American music scene in 2004, I can remember actively resisting liking their music. The whole media announcement of the band as THE voice of suburban disenchantment and hipster ennui struck me as kind of false and constructed.

But then I actually listened to their music, and found myself falling in love with it despite myself. The song above, taken from the album of the same name, is a perfect distillation of why I like this band so much. They’ve taken an overplayed concept (suburbs as secret dystopia) and made it seem fresh and vibrant with simple lyrics (“In the suburbs I learned to drive, and you told me we’d never survive) that somehow capture a disturbing tone without being sentimental or cheesy.

Obviously, being raised in the suburbs of Southern California, imbued with a subtle but undeniable sense of impending doom, has a lot to do with my attitude toward this song and all of Arcade Fire’s work. At the end, when lead singer Win Butler harmonizes the refrain with the rest of the band, “Sometimes I can’t believe it/I’m moving past the feeling,” the song emerges as a kind of personal classic for me, rendering all of those confusing emotions into a couple mysterious lines that paint a haunting picture of growing up in a certain place and time.