Loss, love, forced coming-of-age and fragile generational hope: Arcade Fire's debut touched on all these themes as it defined the independent rock of this decade. Built on family ties (leader Win Butler, his wife, Régine Chassagne, his brother Will) and a rich, folkie musicality, the band made symphonic rock that truly rocked, using accordions and strings as central elements rather than merely as accessories, with a rhythm section that never let up. Songs like "Wake Up," "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" and "Rebellion (Lies)" were simultaneously outsize and deeply personal, like the best pop. But for all its sad realism — "I like the peace in the backseat," sings Chassagne at the album's end, knowing the sense of security is utterly false — this was music that still found solace, and purpose, in communal celebration, as anyone who saw them live during this period can attest. The upshot was an album that repaid countless listens — and made a generation of young rockers grateful for those childhood cello lessons.
• Rolling Stone's Original 2004 Review