Arcade Fire's latest album — Reflektor — has made its way onto the Internet in streaming form thanks to YouTube and, we imagine, the band themselves. And after our first listen, we have some thoughts! The James Murphy (of best-band-ever-at-least-to-me LCD Soundsystem) plays producer on the record — pushing and pulling the band towards places its never been. And the results are, well, far different from what we've heard from the gang prior. Which is to say, it's a pretty fun new direction. At least to us.
It's a big, wide, statement-y album. This, undoubtedly, will alienate a few folks out there. For others, it's a refreshing steer in the opposite direction from most of the albums coming out today — pillows for the biggest, poppiest "hits" that bring in commercial success — and forces the listener to have a more personal experience with the subject matter.
Which isn't to say that the album is anti-commercial — they did win a Grammy, after all, and there's no going back into the rafters from there. Reflektor's release has been a study on contemporary marketing values combined with the artsy weirdness of the Canadian export. There was the worldwide graffiti campaign, secret shows in New York and Montreal, where they called themselves "The Reflektors," and a special 30-minute concert following their performance on NBC's Saturday Night Live. Throw a couple disco balls and a bunch of giant, papier-mâché heads in there and, well, you get the idea.
So what should you know going into your own Reflektor listening experience?
The Album is Seriously Dance-yYes, far be it from me to pass judgement on which bands should and should not be able to make a booty pop, but Reflektor, for the most part, will make your shoulders shimmy. And also maybe make you get up and prance about your apartment while a homeless man pushing a shopping cart watches. (But I mean, who's to say that'll happen to you? Everyone's experience is different! A fact the band seems to speak about favorably.)
James Murphy ElevatesOften reflective and thoughtful in their lyrics, Arcade Fire's vibe is cranked up to eleven by putting Murphy in the producer seat. The songs flow with a movement that's been previously unseen on previous efforts. Murphy knows liquidity and smoothness — even in weirder moments — are what really capture an audience. And he's done it with aplomb. There is quite literally nothing James Murphy can put his hands on that doesn't turn to brilliance. "Turn On The Nighttime" feels like the most Murphiest song with its heavy beat and sing-songy melody.
It's a Split StoryThe album comes to you in two volumes, with the majority of the dance-y business in the first half. It's a reverse mullet of an album: party in the front, business in the back.
It's Got Roots in Black OrpheusNever heard of it? You're not alone. Black Orpheus, though, was an Oscar-winning 1959 film made by French director Marcel Camus. (It's also where a lot of the visuals in the stream come from.) It is a modern-day adaptation of the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, taking place during The Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro. From there, theme extrapolation occurs: loss, love, wandering, solitude, and bucking the conventions simply to follow your one true passion. Plus word on the street is that Orpheus was a helluva songman, so, you know — it fits.
Overall, the album feels like a call to arms for individuality and following one's own path. Which — yes, heady shit, but are you really that surprised, considering it's Arcade Fire? A bit too long at parts — gotta fit in all the concepts, natch — but overall a fascinating variation on the bands' theme. Highlights Include "Normal Person," "Reflektor," "Afterlife," and "Supersymmetry."
Reflektor is out on October 29th on Merge Records. Check out the full tracklisting below:
Vol. I- Reflektor- We Exist- Flashbulb Eyes- Here Comes The Night Time- Normal Person- You Already Know- Joan of Arc
Vol. II- Here Comes The Night Time II- Awful Sound (Oh, Eurydice)- It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)- Porno- Afterlife- Supersymmetry