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Arcade Fire: Montreal's music scene was already simmering. This band may just bring it to a boil

Win Butler, the lead singer of Arcade Fire, is driving his band through the Joshua Tree desert in California, a place that's been synonymous with spiritual, epic, larger-than-life rock 'n' roll ever since U2 memorably titled an album after it. While countless touring musicians have passed through this stretch of land on their way from one coast to the other, few have fit so seamlessly into the landscape as Arcade Fire.

Hailing from the new musical hotbed of Montreal, also home to fellow indie darlings the Stills, the Dears, and the Unicorns, Arcade Fire recently released their debut, Funeral (Merge), a shattering collection of songs about love, redemption, and loss. Written as Butler and his bandmates endured the deaths of several close family members, and as his own relationship with co-vocalist Regine Chassagne evolved romantically (they married in 2003), the album surges with swelling strings, triumphant choirs, and mercilessly driving guitars. "Working out [those feelings] through music is a relatively healthy way to do it," Butler concedes. "We weren't trying to make some grand opus."

Since completing Funeral last year, the group has been touring relentlessly, and reviving the elegiac intensity captured on the record has proven to be a nightly exercise in both catharsis and restraint. "The emotional quality [of our performances] depends on how angry we are with each other," says Butler. "By the time we're done with this tour, either we're going to be a really good band, or we're going to kill each other."

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