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The Suburbs (album)

The Suburbs
Studio album by Arcade Fire
Released 2 August 2010 (2010-08-02)
Recorded 2008–2010 in Montreal and New York
Genre Indie rock, baroque pop
Length 64:07
Label Merge (US), Mercury (UK)
Producer Markus Dravs, Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire chronology
Neon Bible
The Suburbs
Singles from The Suburbs
  1. "The Suburbs"/"Month of May"
    Released: June 1, 2010
  2. "We Used to Wait"
    Released: August 1, 2010
  3. "Ready to Start"
    Released: October 3, 2010
  4. "City with No Children"
    Released: March 14, 2011
  5. "Speaking in Tongues [1]"
    Released: June 27, 2011
  6. "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"
    Released: 13 December 2011

The Suburbs is the third studio album by the Canadian indie rock band Arcade Fire, released in August 2010. Coinciding with the announcement the band released a limited edition 12-inch single containing two tracks from the album, "The Suburbs" and "Month of May".[2][3] The album debuted at No. 1 on the Irish Albums Chart, the UK Albums Chart, the US Billboard 200 chart,[4] and the Canadian Albums Chart.[5] It won Album of the Year at the 2011 Grammy Awards, Best International Album at the 2011 BRIT Awards, Album of the Year at the 2011 Juno Awards, and the 2011 Polaris Music Prize for best Canadian album. Two weeks after winning Grammy's Album of the Year, the album jumped from No. 52 to No. 12 on the Billboard 200, the album's highest ranking since August 2010.[6]

Arcade Fire released a deluxe edition CD/DVD of The Suburbs on June 27, 2011 (everywhere except the U.S. and Canada). The American and Canadian versions were released on August 2, 2011, to coincide with the original album's anniversary. The new version included two brand new tracks recorded during The Suburbs album sessions ("Culture War" and "Speaking in Tongues" featuring David Byrne), an extended version of album track "Wasted Hours", Spike Jonze's short film, Scenes From The Suburbs, and an 80-page booklet as well as other exclusive content.


  • Background 1
  • Promotion 2
  • Critical reception 3
  • Awards and accolades 4
  • Track listing 5
  • Charts and certifications 6
    • Weekly Charts 6.1
    • Year-end charts 6.2
    • Certifications 6.3
  • Personnel 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


The album's lyrical content is inspired by band members Win and William Butler's upbringing in The Woodlands, Texas, a suburb of Houston.[7] According to Win Butler, the album "is neither a love letter to, nor an indictment of, the suburbs – it's a letter from the suburbs".[8] The album was recorded in Win Butler and Régine Chassagne's residence in Montreal, with some parts being recorded at the band's studio in Quebec and in New York City.[3] Win Butler describes the overall sound of The Suburbs as "a mix of Depeche Mode and Neil Young",[9] stating that he wanted the album to sound like "the bands that I heard when I was very young, and wondered what those crazy noises were".[10] It was released by Merge Records in North America and by Mercury Records in the United Kingdom.

The band pressed each completed song to a 12″ lacquer, then recorded it back for the digital master of the album. There are eight alternative covers for the CD version of the album.[11]


A video for "Ready to Start" was released on August 20, 2010, directed by Charlie Lightning and filmed at the band's July 7, 2010 concert at the Hackney Empire in London.[12] On August 30, 2010, an interactive video was released for "We Used to Wait" at written and directed by Chris Milk, designed in conjunction with Google Chrome, which makes use of Google Maps and Google Street View, and has been featured in Time '​s "Short List".[13]

Another music video, for the title track "The Suburbs", was released on November 18, 2010, directed by Spike Jonze. The video, filmed in Austin, Texas follows a group of teenagers living in the suburbs and features cameos by Win Butler and Regine Chassagne as police officers. The music video is composed of excerpts from Jonze's short film, Scenes from the Suburbs, which debuted at the Berlin International Film Festival 2011, and has a running time of 30 minutes.[14] Scenes from the Suburbs screened at the SXSW Film Festival 2011 and saw its online premiere on MUBI on June 27, 2011.[15] Writing for the Canadian Press, Nick Patch called the film "a sci-fi puzzler that seems to blend the paranoia of Terry Gilliam films with the nostalgia of classic Steven Spielberg flicks".[16]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 87/100[17]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[18]
The A.V. Club (A-)[19]
BBC Music 5/5 stars[20][21]
Robert Christgau (A-)[22]
Entertainment Weekly (A-)[23]
NME (9/10)[24]
Pitchfork Media (8.6/10)[25]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[26]
Slant Magazine 4.5/5 stars[27]
Now Magazine 5/5 stars[28]
Spin (9/10)[29]
Q 5/5 stars[30]
musicOMH 4.5/5 stars[31]

The album has garnered universal acclaim. Collating 43 reviews, the review aggregator website Metacritic gave the album an average score of 87.[20]

Writing for the BBC, Mike Diver wrote, "The Suburbs is [Arcade Fire's] most thrillingly engrossing chapter yet; a complex, captivating work that, several cycles down the line, retains the magic and mystery of that first tentative encounter." Referring to the critically acclaimed 1997 Radiohead album, Diver went on to say, "You could call it their OK Computer."[21]

Several reviewers compared the album favourably to Arcade Fire's earlier work. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone awarded the album four out of five stars and described The Suburbs as "their fantastic third album".[26] Ian Cohen of Pitchfork Media gave the album a rating of 8.6 out of 10, calling it "a satisfying return to form—proof that Arcade Fire can still make grand statements without sounding like they're carrying the weight of the world".[25] Noel Murray of The AV Club described the album as "like one long sequel" to the band's earlier single "'No Cars Go", giving it a rating of A-.[19]

Having awarded the album four and a half stars out of five, David Marchese's review in Spin describes the album as, "Radiant with apocalyptic tension and grasping to sustain real bonds, [it] extends hungrily outward, recalling the dystopic miasma of William Gibson's sci-fi novels and Sonic Youth's guitar odysseys. Desperate to elude its own corrosive dread, it keeps moving, asking, looking, and making the promise that hope isn't just another spiritual cul-de-sac."[29]

NME '​s reviewer, Emily Mackay, awarded the album a score of 9 out of 10 and said, "They've judged their moment perfectly, and this deserves to be their Automatic for the People; an album that combines mass accessibility with much greater ambition. Pretty much perfect, in other words – and despite their best efforts, listening to it feels just like coming home."[24] The record was "Album of the Month" in Uncut, whose reviewer Alastair McKay gave the album 4 stars out of 5, calling it "a surprising record, swapping the spit and fire of Funeral for a sense of mature playfulness", and concluding that "[it] explores the badlands between safety and boredom. It's nostalgic, with a sense of future dread. There is pain and pleasure, loss and hope. It feels like the anesthetic is wearing off."[32]

The Suburbs was awarded Exclaim!'s No. 1 Pop & Rock Album of 2010.[33] Writer Andrea Warner summarized it as "a perfect actualization of the suburbs as metaphor for the classic North American dream: a smoothly perfect veneer covering up the lush complexity of motivation. It's not just metaphor, but goes a step further to exemplify the quintessential Arcade Fire sound ― a controlled frenzy, pushing and reaching for something more."

The album was also included in the 2011 edition of the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Awards and accolades

On June 16, 2011, the album was named as a long-listed nominee for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize.[34] On July 6, The Suburbs was awarded a spot on the shortlist, making it one of ten possible candidates to win $30,000 and the recognition as the best Canadian album of the year as voted by jury of Canadian journalists and broadcasters.[35] On September 19, 2011 it won the Polaris Music Prize.[36]

The album was Album of the Year at the Juno Awards and the 53rd Grammy Awards, over a nomination for Best Alternative Music Album, won Best International Album at the 2011 BRIT Awards and was also on numerous best-albums-of-the-year lists:

The single “Ready to Start” was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.[60]

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Sarah Neufeld, Richard Reed Parry, Jeremy Gara, Win Butler, Will Butler, Régine Chassagne & Tim Kingsbury. 
No. Title Length
1. "The Suburbs"   5:15
2. "Ready to Start"   4:15
3. "Modern Man"   4:39
4. "Rococo"   3:56
5. "Empty Room"   2:51
6. "City with No Children"   3:11
7. "Half Light I"   4:13
8. "Half Light II (No Celebration)"   4:25
9. "Suburban War"   4:45
10. "Month of May"   3:50
11. "Wasted Hours"   3:20
12. "Deep Blue"   4:28
13. "We Used to Wait"   5:01
14. "Sprawl I (Flatland)"   2:54
15. "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"   5:25
16. "The Suburbs (continued)"   1:27
  • "Suburban War" is the second to last track on the vinyl version of the album.
  • In the Deluxe Edition, "Wasted Hours" is retitled as "Wasted Hours (A Life That We Can Live)" and features an extended ending. The track length goes to 4:26.
  • Initial copies of the album sold by selected independent music stores came with an exclusive 7" single of "Ready to Start" with a postcard.
  • Tracks 19 and 20 of the Deluxe Edition are downloadable bonus tracks from using codes found inside the album sleeve.

Charts and certifications

Preceded by
Recovery by Eminem
UK Albums Chart number-one album
August 8, 2010
Succeeded by
Recovery by Eminem
Preceded by
Planet Jedward by Jedward
Irish Albums Chart number-one album
August 6, 2010 – August 13, 2010
Preceded by
Recovery by Eminem
Canadian Albums Chart number-one album
August 21, 2010
Preceded by
Nightmare by Avenged Sevenfold
U.S. Billboard 200 number-one album
August 21, 2010


Arcade Fire
Other musicians
Technical personnel
  • Arcade Fire – (mixing, production, arrangement)
  • Owen Pallett – string arrangements
  • Markus Dravs – co-production
  • Mark Lawson – recording
  • Craig Silvey – mixing
  • Nick Launay – additional mixing (tracks 2, 4 & 15)
  • Marcus Paquin, Don Murnaghan and Noah Goldstein – additional recording
  • Brian Thorn – assistant (Magic Shop)
  • Brad Bell – assistant (Public Hi-Fi)
  • Adam Greenspan – assistant
  • Caroline Robert – artwork design
  • Vincent Morisset – art direction
  • Gabriel Jones – photography (assisted by Joey Matthews & Stephane Fiore)

See also


  1. ^ "This Week's New Music Releases". NME. 27 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  2. ^ “Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs to be released August 3”. Retrieved May 27, 2010.
  3. ^ a b “Hear Two New Arcade Fire Songs and an Interview”. NPR's All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen talked to Arcade Fire's Win and Will Butler about the record, while also offering a special preview of the songs “Month of May” and “The Suburbs.” Retrieved May 27, 2010.
  4. ^ "Billboard 200 – Week of August 21, 2010".  
  5. ^ "Arcade Fire heats up charts". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  6. ^ "Week Ending Feb 20, 2011: Albums: An Early Birthday Present". Chart Watch. Yahoo!. 23 February 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  7. ^ “Arcade Fire reveal meaning behind 'The Suburbs' album title” (May 27, 2010)
  8. ^ NME Magazine, July 31, 2010, pg. 24
  9. ^ "'"New Arcade Fire: 'Depeche Mode Meets Neil Young. 9 July 2010. Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  10. ^ NME Magazine, July 31, 2010, pg. 25
  11. ^ Prince, David J. (14 July 2010). "Arcade Fire: The Billboard Cover Story".  
  12. ^ "Ready to Start video". YouTube. August 20, 2010. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  13. ^ Lev Grossman; Paul Moakley; James Poniewozik; Steven James Snyder; Richard Corliss (September 13, 2010). "Short List: Time's Picks for the week".  
  14. ^ Richardson, Mark (November 18, 2010). """Watch: Video for Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs.  
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  18. ^ Monger, James Christopher. "allmusic – The Suburbs Review". Retrieved August 2, 2010. 
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External links

  • The Wilderness Downtown - Arcade Fire's interactive video for "We Used to Wait"
  • – Arcade Fire's interactive video for "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"
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