If you need any proof that indie music is quickly becoming mainstream, look no further than Arcade Fire. The band first burst onto the scene in 2004 with their debut album Funeral, which garnered much critical acclaim and is now regarded by many as one of the best albums of the last decade. 2007’s Neon Bible continued the band’s success by debuting at Number 2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The band then cemented their status in the public’s consciousness by winning last year’s prestigious GRAMMY Award for Album Of The Year with their third album, The Suburbs. Arcade Fire stand out from the plethora of other indie rock bands through their use of baroque influences and varied instrumentation; using anything from violins to accordions to xylophones and many more. Their music can best be described as “anthemic,” and their headlining slots at huge festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo this year have proved that their music is intended for the masses. Luckily, OurStage’s own Bethesda share Arcade Fire’s penchant for making stadium ready indie rock.
Like Arcade Fire, Bethesda is great at creating slow-building songs that lead to epic conclusions. Their song “Dreamtiger” is a perfect example of this formula, and it bears some resemblance to Arcade Fire’s song “Haiti.” Both songs begin with strummed acoustic guitar chords, but add a variety of instruments as the songs progress. While “Dreamtiger” picks up momentum pretty quickly, the song takes a drastic change about halfway through. Here, all of the instruments drop out except for the acoustic guitar and vocals. Other instruments like violin and electric guitar are soon added to create texture, followed by the entrance of a snare drum, which creates a march-like rhythm that gradually gets faster and faster. This eventually leads into the bold ending, with the repeatedly sung refrain “we are free” backed by pounding, rhythmic drums and guitars. Words can’t fully do this song justice; you really need to listen to it yourself. “Oh, How We Crane Our Throats!” is another Bethesda song with some similarities to Arcade Fire. This song also begins slowly, this time with acoustic guitar, banjo and vocals. Violin is soon added to the mix to double the vocal harmonies. However, this slow section only lasts for a short period of time, as the song quickly picks up tempo. Driven by a pounding bass drum beat and hand claps, the song sounds like it could be played at a hoedown.
However, Bethesda’s sound differs from Arcade Fire thanks to their female lead singer. While Arcade Fire occasionally uses female vocals, the majority of the singing duties are handled by lead singer Win Butler. In Bethesda, Shanna Delaney’s unique voice is a crucial component of the band’s sound. Her high pitched soprano is a one of a kind voice that is immediately recognizable. Bethesda also creates their unique sound through their use of elements of power pop and synth pop. “A Song for the Peasant Farmer” is an upbeat song that uses a catchy synthesizer melody and driving guitar chords to create a fun song that will instantly have you bobbing your head. In the end, Bethesda’s greatest strength lies in their ability to meld a bizarre variety of instruments and influences into a cohesive whole.