10 things you didn’t know about the Suburbs of Arcade Fire

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The 2000s were a pivotal decade for Canadian music. From coast to coast, our nation’s indie rock scene has exploded internationally, bringing worldwide attention to bands like Broken Social Scene, the New Pornographers and Hey Rosetta !. But the group that would end this decade with illustrious albums would be the group that caught the biggest spotlight: Arcade Fire.In 2004, the Montreal group released their critically acclaimed debut album, Funeral, a small indie record that topped end-of-year (and later, end-of-decade) lists everywhere and managed to attract fans like David Bowie and David Byrne along the way. But six years later, they would end the decade with The suburbs, their third studio album and the one that won them not only accolades but awards in the form of a Grammy, Juno and Polaris Music Prize for Best Album.

The album was inspired by the education of members Win and Will Butler in a Houston suburb, and the songs that grew out of it are not so much a love letter to, nor an indictment of this rural philosophy. Instead, it is described by the group as “suburban scenes,” stories of wasted youth, corruption and the responsibilities of adulthood. The result sits somewhere between dreamy nostalgia and dystopian fiction; a series of epic songs that feel more grounded and more human than those from their second release, Neon bible, and somehow slightly more optimistic than Funeral. Thinking smaller, The suburbs has become one of Arcade Fire’s largest discs to date.

August 2 marks the album’s official 10th anniversary. To celebrate, we’re taking a look back at 10 facts you might not know about the album.

What were your favorite songs from The suburbs? Share with us @CBCMusic.


The album was recorded in a Quebec church that the group bought in 2005

This 134-year-old Presbyterian church just outside of Montreal was renovated into a studio when Arcade Fire purchased it, and was used to record both Neon bible and The suburbs. Other artists who have recorded albums in this space include Timber Timbre, Wolf Parade and Beirut. In 2013, the church went on sale and was bought a year later by Emery Street Records. It was renamed Grand Lodge No. 24.

The Suburbs was originally intended to be a much longer album

The suburbs lasts just under 64 minutes, but originally it was supposed to be even longer. Butler said Rolling stone that he, his wife and his teammate Régine Chassagne first brought to the group “30 or something”, but “we continued to refine and edit”. “There’s a part of it that looks like another planet,” Butler added.

But even at 16 titles, The suburbs was, at the time, Arcade Fire’s longest album to date, which drummer Jeremy Gara noted Magazine Clash was sometimes difficult to register. “It was the most difficult process ever,” he described. “It was like, ‘Oh my God, this is so material.’ We were working on twice as much material as Neon bible and trying to do it in the same amount of time and it felt awful sometimes. ”

It was recorded using technology from the 1940s

Arcade Fire has always been a group of albums, thinking more of the album as a cohesive whole than a collection of singles. For The suburbs, they decided to take a retro, analog approach to recording, even though they would eventually need it to be digital. The album was mixed on a 1940s console with vacuum tubes, and the tracks were first mastered on a 12-inch lacquer before being transferred back to digital format. The result was that the CD and digital versions of the album could sound as close to vinyl as possible. “We recorded it to tape, we pressed it onto vinyl, and the digital is the archive of this physical thing that exists in the world,” Win Butler said. le New York Times. “In the end, there was something real that was done. “

“Deep Blue” almost ended up as an outright synth song

In this same Magazine Clash interview, Butler looks back on the evolution of the now acoustic number, “Deep Blue”. “We finished it like that total synth song and it left us a little cold,” he recalls. The version that landed on the album is, as Butler pointed out, a “balance between that quasi-demo quality and the synth”.

The title ‘Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)’ is named after a book

Mountains beyond the mountains is the title of a 2003 book by author Tracy Kidder on the life of anthropologist Paul Farmer. Farmer then formed the nonprofit healthcare organization Partners in Health, with which Arcade Fire partnered.

“I’ve always been nice to people who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty,” Win Butler said. the Guardian in 2011. “You meet all these people who are alive thanks to Partners in Health. It’s really good that someone followed through on this idea, went through all the bullshit, red tape, garbage and depressing setbacks, and did this stuff that might not have been real, but is real. . It is worth pursuing. ”

The location of the album cover remains a secret

As for the album cover, the band needed an image that could have been anywhere and nowhere. The original idea was to drive from Longueuil, Quebec, where Chassagne grew up, to the Texan suburb of the Woodlands, where Win and Will were originally from, and take pictures through the windshield along the way. The highways turned out to be less than picturesque, so artistic director Vincent Morisset instead explored the forest with a photographer, taking photos of streets and houses. These images were projected on a wall with a 1979 Mercedes Benz in the foreground – a tribute to a technique used by Alfred Hitchcock – ending with the iconic album cover. To this day, the precise location of the house on the cover is a secret, but Will Butler revealed it to Q magazine that “the car in the driveway belongs to a friend of ours, Tyler, who is now our guitar technician. “

(Merge records)

The Suburbs was Merge Records’ first Billboard hit

The label is home to some of the biggest names in independent music like Spoon, Neutral Milk Hotel and The Magnetic Fields, but commercially Arcade Fire is one of Merge’s biggest successes. While their debut in 2004, Funeral, was the first version of Merge to break the Billboard Top 200, The suburbs would surpass that by becoming the label’s first album to climb to number one on the charts.

Members appear in ‘The Suburbs’ music video

Members Win Butler, Will Butler and Sara Neufeld appear in the music video for the title track, “The Suburbs,” but as masked Homeland Security officers.

‘The Suburbs’ launched the careers of 2 young actors

When director Spike Jonze threw teens in the Suburbs short film and music video, he was looking for actors for the first time. This is the first time we’ve seen Sam Dillon and Zoe Graham onscreen, but it wasn’t the last: The two Texas natives were later featured in Richard Linklater’s Oscar nominated film in 2014, Childhood.

The album made Grammy and Polaris history

The suburbs is the only Polaris Music Award-winning album to also win a Grammy Album of the Year, making it the biggest commercial album to win the Polaris title. This album beat the Weeknd, Destroyer, Austra and Hey Rosetta! for the Polaris Prize, and he beat Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Eminem and Lady Antebellum for the Grammy. Arcade Fire was the first independent issue to win this Grammy Award.

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