Returning to the music scene with their most ambitious project to date, the latest offering from Canadian indie rock six-piece Arcade Fire is, to put it simply – loaded. Loaded to the brim with ideas, emotion and elaborate musicianship.
Arcade Fire’s Reflektor has a lot to live up to as it comes off the back of the group’s extended break, mysterious guerrilla marketing campaign (that saw major cities around the world graffitied with the word ‘Reflektor’), and enormous hype from their three absolutely superb and much loved, previous albums. Luckily, this latest work delivers on all fronts, with the help from LCD Sound System’s James Murphy, who produced the double album. (A collaboration that has said to have been in the works for about six years.)
Influenced by traditional music of Haiti and the Caribbean, Arcade Fire have made an album that retains the distinctive Arcade Fire ‘sound’, yet somehow moves away from the aesthetic of the albums before it.
Just looking at the track listing alone, the average time for a track on the album is over five minutes, and stretched over two discs, it’s a long play through. However there’s no fluff filler here (ok maybe the last song on the album Supersymmetry is a bit of a stretch but), no song here feels that it overstays its welcome, nor do any tracks become typically stale after the three-minute mark. James Murphy’s production influence has definitely had a hand in the album’s overall pacing.
Arcade Fire are known for their multilayer and deeply meaningful lyrics, and Reflektor is no different. Each song has been incredibly well crafted, and each is uniquely individual. Lyrically, the album is dripping with dichotomy between ideas. The album’s title track and lead single Reflektor is a standout and warms listeners in with its driving bass line and dance floor-esq beats, yet at its core, its lyrics are covered with emotion. “Just a reflection of a reflection of a reflection of a reflection of a reflection” is echoed through out the title track. Just what is it that’s being reflected? Society? Self? Guilt? Isolation? We don’t find any answers; these are merely the questions that are posed upon us.
That’s not to say that it’s all existential noise on this album, there’s a fair few indie rock tracks here, and they provide quite a few surprises listening for the first time. You Already Know’s throws back to the 60s with its yesteryear introduction and outro; and not to mention its upbeat no nonsense rock melody.
The album crosses over into many genres that aren’t necessarily associated with Arcade Fire: 80s dance, grunge, tropical, and LCD Soundsystem electro inspired beats. Even a taste of David Bowie’s glam rock era can be heard in Joan of Arc. Of course the man himself makes a special guest appearance on the album as well.
It shouldn’t work but it does, Arcade Fire find a way. The mish mash of genres and melodies come together to form not only a cohesive but solid and very loaded album. The flow from track to track is spot on despite the lengthiness of certain songs the majority of the album and it all fits nicely with one another to create a remarkable listening experience.
Yes Reflektor is distant and a bit different from what we’ve come to expect from Arcade Fire, but change keeps us on our toes and keeps things fresh and interesting for the band that we’ve come to expect so much from. Their new aesthetic is memorable and yet another sign that they can do no wrong.