Reflektor, Arcade Fire’s 4th album, has placed the Canadian band on the scale of legends. The world has waited for this album and now that it’s finally here, we’ve let out a collective sigh. Every outlet imaginable has reviewed the album and the consensus has been overwhelmingly positive. Before hearing the album myself it seemed that Reflektor was doomed to become another slave to the hype machine. In the week’s leading up to Reflektor’s release the band’s zany TV appearances and refusal to be referred to anything other than “The Reflektors” has come off as feeling forced and unnecessary. But, they’re Arcade Fire and at this point they can do whatever the hell they want.
This leniency is especially granted because Reflektor really is a stellar album. Although the album’s lyrics and themes are loosely drawn from an essay by Søren Kierkegaard titled “The Present Age,” Reflektor is not a concept album. Whereas The Suburbs was rooted in a central idea, Reflektor has a plethora of ideas bouncing around at all times. So many in fact that it often feels chaotic. Reflektor is Arcade Fire’s Kid A, it’s a departure from their standard rock formula; it’s an experiment.
The album begins with the title track, which still feels as powerful as it did when it was released two months ago. It’s a grand introduction to the disco-infused, world beat of the “new” Arcade Fire. Recently, in an interview with Rolling Stone, Win Butler said “Regine [Win’s wife and multi-instrumentalist for Arcade Fire] is kind of the person who dances. At any given minute, if you can get Regine to dance, you’re kind of on the right track, so I think we just wanted to make a record that Regine could dance to.” It’s safe to say the band has accomplished that in an enormous way in fusing the worlds of rock music and traditional Haitian beats to make an album that will make you move while building to something unlike anything you’ve heard before.
This is exemplified on We Exist; the song that brings about the brooding quality of the album in full force. It’s funky, rhythmic and unapologetically confident. While a glowing review can be given to most of the songs on Reflektor, none can compare to Here Comes the Night Time, the album’s fourth track. It wouldn’t be too bold to say that this is perhaps the best song Arcade Fire has released up till now. Inspired by traditional Haitian rara beats, Here Comes the Night Time is an original, gleefully euphoric and gloriously refreshing modern song.
As Normal Person, Reflektor’s full-fledged barnburner, kicks in Win croons “Do you like rock n roll music? Cause I don’t know if I do.” It’s this contemplation that makes Reflektor so refreshing. The music is undeniably thoughtful and meticulously crafted, but it’s an album that is going to resonate with the masses. Yet, Normal Person becomes one of the band’s most exciting songs on Reflektor because it’s four-and-a-half solid minutes of Arcade Fire talking directly to the masses and playing a Bruce Springsteen-esque rock anthem in their own unmistakable way. Although Normal Person, and other tracks, have lost the intensity they carry in a live setting, the songs on Reflektor show that Arcade Fire has found their voice and they’re fully taking advantage of it.
As a double –album Reflektor will have you believe it’s another pretentious art project. But, the two discs go about creating two distinctly different ambiences. While the second half of Reflektor could be viewed as the lesser of the two, it really isn’t fair to compare them to each other. The first half is a full on assault of pleasure, while the second half builds to something darker. Tracks like It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus) and the outwardly poppy Afterlife will instantly grab you while even the supposed failures, or less-accessible, tracks of Reflektor (such as the ironically titled Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)) serve as highlights in their own respect. All in all, the album flows cohesively and every song finds its own charm. Many of the six-minute (or longer) songs could easily be reduced to less than four minutes, but this is an album best listened to from start to finish. The melodies are intricate and captivating on each track, as are the lyrics. This ultimately builds to a complex mix that allows each track to soar in its own right and as a part of “the reflktor.”.
Is it the best album of the year? Many reviewers will have you believe it is, and I would agree. Is it as revolutionary as every reviewer is claiming? Only time will tell. Like Random Access Memories and Yeezus, Reflektor has become one of 2013s most hyped albums. While the hype machine is a tricky and somewhat malicious entity in delivering products instead of art, Reflektor will stand as a great album even without the ridiculous fanfare and marketing. No matter what you’re opinion of this “hip” band might be I urge you to listen to this album and decide for yourself.
With Reflektor Arcade Fire have treaded into unfamiliar territory and have tried something new. No matter what you’re opinion is on the outcome of this experiment, at least they tried. Arcade Fire proved to us almost 10 years ago that they were a band worth paying attention to because of their innovative methods. With Reflektor, Arcade Fire is forcing the world pay attention to them and, like it or not, we’re watching a group of artists go down in history before our very eyes.
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