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'The Suburbs,' Arcade Fire 

The Suburbs isn't their absolute best, but the Arcade Fire comes damn close with this one.

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Bemoaning suburb-induced disenchantment is hardly new territory: the routine monotony, the hopelessness, the lover who makes the boredom bearable. Despite treading on such worn ground, the sheer grandiosity of The Suburbs is enough to shed new light on an overdone theme.

A foreboding tension builds throughout the album, starting on “The Suburbs,” a song underscored by the keys of a ghost town player piano. As usual for this band, bleakness is counterbalanced by the group’s signature lush layering of sounds and front man Win Butler’s vocal bravado. The instrumentals here aren’t varied, but they provide a motif that keeps the album cohesive and focused.

The Suburbs falters a bit in the middle: A lack of urgency shines through along with a failure to give importance to the lyrics. But the album does pick up near the end, with a good old-fashioned rocker (“Month of May”) and an upbeat, electro-pop track (“Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”).   

As they’ve done twice before, Arcade Fire again proves why they reign over the kingdom of blissful desolation.

DOWNLOAD: “The Suburbs”

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