Plus One

The 11 best Arcade Fire songs

Why have a Top 10 when you can have one more? Here are our favourite Arcade Fire songs, ranked

Even when they were small, Arcade Fire were massive. Bursting out of the Canadian underground in 2004, the band brought baroque art-rock, bossa nova and Québécois chanson to the post-punk indie scene like it had somehow always been there. Between Funeral and WE the band have evolved in a dozen different directions at once; reinventing themselves with each album as they push forwards and backwards through the broadest musical landscape – always reaching for the biggest stages and never not finding them. 

As Arcade Fire prepare to close off summer 2022 with a return to arenas in the UK and Ireland, we look back over the band’s discography to rank their 11 best tracks. 

11. ‘Everything Now’

Whatever anyone was expecting in 2017 – after a four-year hiatus and a sprawling double album about Kierkegaard and the Greek underworld – no one saw Arcade Fire turning into ABBA. It’s easy to poke fun at a band who come out wearing matching jumpsuits, but it’s also impossible not to love an album that spends so much time under a disco ball, not least the opening banger that sounds like LCD Soundsystem playing ‘Dancing Queen’ on a set of panpipes. 

10. ‘Reflektor’

Anyone who caught the Reflektor tour will remember two things: the weird dancing mirrorball mascot guy, and the fact that ‘Refleckor’ made for Arcade Fire’s greatest ever set opener. Beginning the album with just as big of a curtain drop, the song signalled a whole new direction for the band’s most ambitious record; mixing Roxy Music, David Bowie and big club energy with dark-hued philosophy and suicide rock. By the time Régine Chassagne starts hitting the house keys and Bowie himself comes in on the chorus, the song sounds bigger than even the lofty ideas behind it.  

9. ‘It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)’

The flip side to ‘Reflektor’ is buried deep in the album’s second disc – the part of the gig where Win and Régine venture into an underworld full of Jean Cocteau references and dancers in skeleton onesies. Staged here as a dialogue between Orpheus and Eurydice, ‘It’s Never Over’ has two halves of its own, starting as reassurance, building to blind terror, and fading out beautifully on a whispered chorus that lands somewhere in between (“oh Orpheus, it’s over too soon…”). 

8. ‘End Of The Empire I-IV’

Okay, so technically this is two tracks but even the worst streaming services manage to hide the jump. Arcade Fire took the concept record somewhere new with WE, turning in a prog-rock opera circling a literal void. Building up slowly to a drift through the black hole at the centre of the universe, the album’s opus sits right in the middle with the multipart ‘End Of The Empire I-IIII’ and ‘IV’ paying off like a mini-album in its own right. Leaning hard into Lennon, the song dips into dystopia in the gentlest, biggest way possible.

7. ‘Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)’

So much of The Suburbs bleeds melancholy (‘We Used To Wait’, ‘Deep Blue’ and ‘Half Lite II (No Celebration)’ are some of the band’s best tearjerkers), but the album’s last proper track flips the mood to irony – setting the environmental apocalypse to a retro French club track that almost turns into ‘Heart Of Glass’ at least three times. As a standalone track (and a live show favourite), it’s one of Chassagne’s finest moments. As a closer to an album full of so much sadness, it’s positively electric. 

6. ‘The Suburbs’

Arcade Fire’s tightest, most grounded album is also their most cinematic – with every track on The Suburbsvisually tied to Spike Jonze’s accompanying film, Scenes From The Suburbs. Saying everything on the record in miniature over 5.15 minutes, the opening track sounds exactly like Jonze’s film even if you haven’t seen it – a lost and found childhood epic about fear of the past and fear for the future; part 80s nostalgia, part asphalt-covered horror.  

5. ‘Intervention’

Arcade Fire shows have always had a touch of revival meeting about them – Win Butler leading festival congregations with gospel verve while his brother Will whips himself into ecstasy with whatever he’s managed to rip out of the drumkit. The band’s self-built church was never stronger than on Neon Bible though, especially on the organ-ground stomper ‘Intervention’. There are bigger tracks on the record (‘No Cars Go’), and some that feel more refined (‘Black Wave/Bad Vibrations’), but Arcade Fire’s burning anti-everything hymn is the one that feels like it could launch its own religion. 

4. ‘In The Backseat’

The shadow of Chassagne’s past hangs heavy over the band’s debut, but the exquisitely beautiful album closer almost cuts too deep. Written about the singer’s journey to her own mother’s funeral, the song is as literal as it gets (“my family tree’s losing all its leaves”) as well as hinting at something even worse – finding empowerment when you don’t want it; the unexpected loss of innocence. By the halfway point, ‘In The Backseat’ is more sob than song – easily one of the band’s most painful, personal and untouchable tracks.  

3. ‘Rebellion (Lies)’

Early Arcade Fire never felt too comfortable in an indie disco, with one exception. ‘Rebellion’ filled floors right from the opening bass beat back in 2004, and it’s still hard to listen to without moving. A song about dying and cheating on your own dreams that felt dirty and exultant enough to sound like something far more fun, this was the closest Arcade Fire ever came to scoring the kind of goose-bump raising nostalgia they spent the next few decades lamenting.

2. ‘Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)’

Arcade Fire made it all the way to the top of the hill on the very first track of their very first album. The story of two tragic lovers meeting in a wrecked world, ‘Neighbourhood #1’ painted a picture of a private paradise that would only ever return in glimpses again throughout the rest of the band’s discography – an ode to love against impossible, terrifying, unbeatable odds, the song hits hard from the start and builds into something almost transcendent. A song to make you believe anything is possible. 

1. ‘Wake Up’

‘Wake Up’ probably isn’t Arcade Fire’s best song, but there’s also no other choice for the No.1 spot. Standing slightly apart from everything else the band have ever made, the song seems to land with just as much power no matter how many times you hear it – a peerless art-rock anthem that forever feels like it’s leading its own cult. Blessed and cursed with writing one of the greatest songs of all time, Arcade Fire can never now end a set with anything else, but ‘Wake Up’ is the song that never tires, never grows old and never fails to shoot you straight through the heart. 

  1. Arcade Fire are playing arenas in Ireland and the UK between 30 August and 8 September. Tickets are available here.