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Monday, November 18, 2013

Arcade Fire - Reflektor - ALBUM REVIEW

Indie Rock Heroes Groove their Way up the Charts

GENRES: Dance-Pop, Indie Rock, Alternative Rock, Disco, Baroque Indie Rock

TOP TRACKS: Reflektor, We Exist, Here Comes the Night Time, Normal Person, Joan of Arc, It's Never Over, Afterlife, Supersymmetry

Arcade Fire, the critically and commercially acclaimed Montreal based Indie Rock ten-piece band, have released their fourth studio album, Reflektor which was accompanied by large amounts of mysteriously wonderful hype. Win Butler and the rest of the group were indeed very coy about the album, its release, and its content,. However, once we received the single 'Reflektor' and saw the group on the season premiere of 'Saturday Night Live', Reflektor was shrouded with the same hype and excitement that every Arcade Fire project received.

Quite honestly, this hype seems deserved. Arcade Fire stormed into the indie-rock industry with Funeral in the early 2000's and immediately forged a reputation as the standard for creativity, ingenuity, and originality all while being commercially accessible. This marketability was accentuated by their 3rd record, Suburbs which won the grammy for best album in 2010. For Arcade Fire to release a project with no hype at all would have been a complete and utter surprise to me. In my opinion, Reflektor may have benefited from this hype. Everything about the album resembled a great spectacle. The lead single seemed very dancy, the band began booking secret shows under the pseudonym 'The Reflektors' and of course the announcement that this would be a double album. Arcade Fire succeeded in making this record the absolute cynosure of the music industry for the past few months (possibly excluding Marshall Mathers LP 2).

My first impression of Reflektor left me confused. I didn't understand it at all. Quite honestly I might have not liked it. There were a few songs that I mildly enjoyed and I thought that was it. I didn't see any substantial content beneath the music. The quirkiness and bold factor that usually accompanied Arcade Fire's music simply escaped me this time. The strange thing was, for some reason I didn't give up on this album. I listened to it everyday for the next few weeks trying to figure it out. It was like figuring out a puzzle. I was determined to figure out why I wasn't enjoying this record. I played it in the car, I listened to it at home, every single second I spent listening to music was spent listening to Reflektor and I think after hours of reflection (ha) and deep thinking about this record, I still haven't completely figured it out but I have an opinion formed and that is that Reflektor is indeed a good album.

I had no doubts about tracks like 'Reflektor, 'Normal Person', 'It's Never Over' and 'Afterlife' as these were my initial favorites that I really liked even from the beginning. But the majority of this album simply didn't click with me right away. And after the numerous listens and understanding, I searched for inner meaning and substance and I found it. 'We Exist' and 'Afterlife' are some incredibly conceptual songs and I really loved their messages. For the most part, on this entire record Arcade Fire show that they have great lyrics and great ideas. The concepts on here range from materialism, religion, heaven and hell, the mean spirit of society and numerous other ideas that I'm sure I'll discover months from now after listening to this album even more.

Musically, Arcade Fire is a very creative and bold group, always have been for the most part. But if I'm being completely honest, I'll say that there were a few tracks that were EXTREMELY underwhelming like 'Flashbulb Eyes.' Arcade Fire's attempts to venture into new styles of music landed way past creativity and into the realm of pretentiousness when they very half-heartedly and monotonously attempted to add new instrumentation, beats and ideas from Caribbean music into their style. I hate this song and that's one opinion that won't change.

 There are a few more songs that are ambitious yet underwhelming like 'You Already Know', 'Here Comes the Night Time II' and even 'Supersymmetry'. 'Supersymmetry' was not an appropriate song for the ending of this record. I would have been content if the album closed with 'Afterlife' as it was one of my favorite songs. The lyrics, instrumentation, and groove are very interesting to me. And to go back to 'Supersymmetry', it's slow feel, gospel-like singing and electronic instrumentation might have been better to replace 'Here Comes the Nightime II' as the opener for Disc 2. Also, it was obnoxiously long. The last 7 minutes or so contained no real content and seemed to have been thrown there for some sort of post-ironic effect. The 'hipster' mood of Arcade Fire's overall image cannot be thrown away, and I've come to terms with that despite how pointless it may be.

It's really easy to not enjoy this album or say that you don't like it. Arcade Fire are a group that makes each album release an extravaganza, something that catches your attention for sure and most people may not really care for that. That being said, you can't ignore some of the great songwriting on Reflektor. Primarily the melodies and the vocal harmonies. This is the case for me on 'Normal Person' where Win Butler and company break out into the closest thing to a "rock" song on this record. It's really high energy and different in comparison to the rest of the record. In fact, each and every song is very different from the next on Reflektor as Arcade Fire really cover many genres and musical styles. Although not all of these styles are imitated tastefully or effectively, for the most part they are good. In terms of Arcade Fire releases, this one has to be the most upbeat. The overall vibe is one of dancing and grooves from conga to disco. I think I'll always be interested in this band as long as they make music even if their releases begin to fade in quality because of how they carry themselves as musicians. It's intriguing to me how mysterious and different they are from other bands. And it doesn't hurt that they are one of the best bands of the past ten years.

FINAL SCORE: 7.5 / 10