The Arcade Fire

By Derek Wright

Grade: A | There’s quite a bit at stake on “Neon Bible,” the second LP from Montreal’s Arcade Fire.

As the biggest name from a city with a beehive worthy of buzz – courtesy of The Dears, Wolf Parade, Islands, The Stills, Malajube – the album marks the first notable release from a hometown act since the location became reputably the coolest place on the continent. And while the future of area musicians doesn’t entirely ride on the commercial success of “Neon Bible,” you can rest assured that locals are rooting for their neighbors, if only selfishly to keep the spotlight fixed and melting the Canadian snow long enough to get big time deals of their own.

The album also marks the second wave of releases from recent crossover, commercially viable indie-pop outfits. While the group’s 2004 masterpiece helped thrust the genre into households worldwide, this go-round will surely help determine how long it stays in the mainstream. While the year has already featured a post-breakthrough record from The Shins, 2007 is also slated to feature new material from Modest Mouse and Bright Eyes. This year could go a long way toward either solidifying middle America’s fascination with the sound, or writing it off as a momentary fad.

So, yes, this album means a great deal to a variety of people. Luckily for Montreal musicians or other Converse-clad hipster bands – and most importantly for Arcade Fire – “Neon Bible” is a brilliantly textured collection that is both whimsically swooning and hauntingly disturbing. All sociological repercussions aside, the sextet delivered a truly great album that meets every expectation set by its predecessor.

Picking up the same epic, baroque pop as their debut, “Neon Bible” jumps between grandiose intersections that rely as heavily on bending strings and gorgeously blanketing melodies as they do on alternating tempos and chiming guitars.

While “Neon Bible” may be remembered as what furthered the reputation of a city or as an album that marked a genre’s turning point, its greatest accomplishment is still the densely thought-provoking and deeply riveting music. And while the album seems impossible to best, so did Arcade Fire’s last one – and just look what happened.