The tattoo on my left forearm is inspired by the 15th song on the album, “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).”
Olivia Rohling

by Olivia Rohling

We all have a favorite album. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s that one album that you can listen to for days on end and never get sick of it. For me, that album is Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs. 

This is the third album released by the Canadian Indie-rock band, following Funeral (2004) and Neon Bible (2007). Arcade Fire is made up of husband-and-wife duo Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, Win’s younger brother, William Butler, Richard Reed Parry, Tim Kingsbury, and Jeremy Gara. 

The Suburbs speaks to what it’s like growing up living in suburbia, and how comforting yet isolating that feeling can be. 

“Will and I were born in a really small town in Northern California, kind of near the Nevada border,” Win Butler said in an  NPR interview, “Like you know maybe 50 people on the side of a mountain. We moved to the suburbs of Houston when we were young.” 

Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs is the third album released by the Canadian Indie-rock band, following Funeral (2004) and Neon Bible (2007.) Image courtesy of The Alternative.

The album begins with the song, “The Suburbs,” which talks all about suburban living. Key lyrics such as, “In the suburbs, I learned to drive,” and “But in my dreams, we’re still screaming and running through the yard,” allow the listener a chance to feel what it’s like to live a “suburban” lifestyle. Not to mention the ending of “The Suburbs” blends seamlessly into the beginning of the next song, “Ready to Start” which is just plain awesome sauce! The song is sure to give your eardrums butterflies!

Many songs on the album seem to purposely blend into one another. “Empty Room” blends into “City with No Children,” “Half Light I” blends into “Half Light II (No Celebration),” “Month of May” blends into “Wasted Hours,” and “We Used to Wait” blends into “Sprawl I (Flatland).” Talk about satisfying! The album is so well done that you won’t get sick of listening to all 5,316 minutes of it over and over again like I continue to do to this day (thanks, Spotify Wrapped)! 

“Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” is my personal favorite song on the album. My proof of loving the song is located right on my left arm where I have a tattoo that says, “Mountains Beyond Mountains.” The song really is just that good! Arcade Fire’s Régine Chassagne is Haitian, so the band strategically used the term “Mountains Beyond Mountains” because it comes from a Haitian proverb that means “beyond mountains, there are more mountains.” I look at the Haitian term on my arm and it always gives me the feeling that opportunities are inexhaustible and when you surmount one great obstacle in your life you merely gain a clearer view of the next one. 

In “Sprawl ll,” Régine sings “Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small, can we ever get away from the Sprawl?” This lyric goes back to the theme of growing up in suburban sprawl and wondering if there is more to life than suburbia. 

If you would like to not only listen but feel the meaning of “Sprawl ll (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” you can listen to the band’s 2011 Coachella performance of this song below. Disclaimer: every time I watch this performance it brings me tears!

The Suburbs by Arcade Fire puts suburban living into music form and does so in a way that will make you want to get up and dance! That, my friends, is why this album really is all that and a bag of chips. 

My top three favorites songs from The Suburbs:

  1. “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” 
  2. “Deep Blue”
  3. “Modern Man”
Click this image to hear samples of my three favorite songs on the album.

Writer, student, introvert, Wordle player, and avid email checker, Olivia Rohling challenges herself in all aspects of her life daily! Olivia is not a stranger to the world of journalism as she was Editor-in-Chief for The Milestone, McNicholas High School’s newspaper, and currently writes for Ohio University’s The Odyssey Online. Olivia loves keeping busy, but when she does get free time she enjoys, reading, running, baking and listening to Arcade Fire. Olivia is a freshman in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.

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