Montreal, well-known for its avant-garde, epic-rock sprawl, has recently disclosed the illuminating revelation that it can nurture an entirely different sound too. And so out of the city's wintry gales comes the Arcade Fire. Equally familiar and pioneering, Funeral is a densely knit patchwork of personal history, inspired as much by the multiple familial deaths that have befallen the band in the past year as it is by the marriage of the front couple, Win Butler and his Haitian-Quebecois wife, Régine Chassagne.
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With 15 cast members in rotation and at least as many instruments in their hands, Funeral is expansive, refined, poignant, and astonishing. Their epic story of decline and renewal unfolds in various stages -- or "neighborhoods" -- from the Mission of Burma-esque trilling in "Neighborhood #2 (Laika)" and Butler's warblings on "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)," to the contemplative "Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)." Rarely does talent this big gel so swimmingly or so quickly, and thus you are advised to pay close attention to the Arcade Fire 's scorching conflagration. -- Kelly Shindler