Three years and a handful of Grammys later, the Canadian indie rock group Arcade Fire has finally returned with a fourth, full-length album.
Having arrived at the magical number three with 2010’s The Suburbs, the band made a few sonic and storytelling leaps on Reflektor that expands their musical palette without sacrificing the many details that have defined the band since 2004’s Funeral.
Thematically, Win Butler & co. have skipped real-world stories for the drama of ancient Greece: the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice as re-imagined by director Marcel Camus in his film Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus). Lead singer/composer Win Butler has described it as one of his favorite films of all-time.
The band leaked the album on YouTube with their own edit of the film playing along as a visual counterpart. The album cover plays into the theme as well, with a photograph of statues depicting Orpheus and Eurydice (who, by the way, also have songs named after them: “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” and “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus)”).
The video also displays the lyrics so you can sing along. In a nod to Pink Floyd, the mood and action on-screen matches the band’s music especially during “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus).” The transition from the opening title track to “We Exist”, as well as the transition between “Flashbulb Eyes” to “Here Comes The Night Time”, are musically and visually seamless, especially in the latter.
There’s also a segment featuring the hidden track on the album played in reverse or, I guess, reflected from an original. The track will appear before the opening track on the album but, in the video, it pops up between “Joan Of Arc” and “Here Comes The Night Time II.”
Musically, the band takes a new course thanks to the help of additional producer James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem) as well as a trip to Haiti. He and partner Régine Chassagne traveled there to visit her parent’s home country. He was deeply affected by his exposure to Haitian music and culture.
“There was a band I [feel] changed me musically,” he said in an interview in Rolling Stone, “Just really opened me up to this huge, vast amount of culture and influence I hadn’t been exposed to before, which was really life-changing.”
Murphy’s influence is most evident in opening the opening title track and closing track “Supersymmetry.” “Reflektor” has a strong disco vibe thanks to the rhythm section, while its album opposite is awash in keyboards. “Normal Person” sounds like a lost song from the Talking Heads at least until it veers off into some wild rock territory with fuzzy/distorted guitars. “Porno” and “Afterlife” sound like something Murphy recorded during his 45:33 phase.
I immediately fell in love with the album but that’s mainly because of my man-crush on Murphy. On the other hand, I found the slight change in musical style equally attractive. Continuing in the same manner as before would have been fruitless, in my opinion, because the band’s original sound peaked on The Suburbs (and what a beautiful peak it was!). It was time for something fresh and Arcade Fire has succeeded in such a way that won’t alienate longtime fans such as myself.
Reflektor will be available for download/on disc this Tuesday, Oct. 29th.