By Brendan J Bohannon ’14
9 out of 10
Arcade Fire’s 2011 Grammy winning triumph “The Suburbs” and a wave of guerilla marketing created a level of anticipation for “Reflektor” that seemed like it could only result in a complete letdown.
Typically, after garnering accolades like “Album of the Year,” bands are pressured into producing a flimsy imitation of their previous work. However, Arcade Fire managed to avoid this slump by recruiting former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy as a producer.
The result is an 80-minute dance-infused record, broken into two discs, that is reminiscent of previous works like “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” but veers from the group’s traditional style.
The word that comes to mind when listening to the first disc of “Reflektor” is “fun.” Tracks such as “Here Comes the Nigh Time” create a buzz similar to that of a carnival. While listening to the title track, a seven-minute disco-based jam featuring David Bowie on backing vocals, it is impossible to deny Murphy’s influence, especially in regards to the beat.
Before “Reflektor” the group visited Haiti and recruited traditional drummers who played on the album. The trip resonated with the band, and according to frontman Win Butler, helped define the sound of the album.
Songs on disc one such as “Normal Person” and “You Already Know” have a live, rock and roll feeling to them, with crowd noises worked into both tracks.
At the beginning of “Normal Person” Butler sarcastically says “Do you like Rock and Roll music? Because I don’t know if I do.” The song proceeds to erupt into possibly the most rocking song the group has ever written, and a real gem on an album filled with superb tracks.
“Reflektor” marks a major shift in style. The second disc is firmly rooted in the sound that made “The Suburbs” and 2007’s “Neon Bible” so special.
“Here Comes the Night Time II” feels like it could have been on either of those records. Not surprisingly, this is one of two tracks that Murphy was not involved with.
The real low point of the album is “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice),” a six-minute song that feels about three minutes too long and really does not do much for the listener.
However, the last few tracks of “Reflektor” are the high point of the album.
It begins with “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus),” a groovy track featuring Régine Chassagne’s best vocal performance as a member of Arcade Fire.
This is followed by the best track on the record, “Afterlife.” The track feels like the culmination of everything Arcade Fire has been doing for the past nine years perfectly put into one song. It starts with a bouncy synth introduction with tantalizing beats and continues to build up over the course of six minutes.
The final track, “Supersymmetry,” provides closure for the record and creates a pensive atmosphere with sprawled drums and beautiful lyrics.
It is difficult to think of another release from 2013 that carries the magnitude of “Reflektor.” Expect for it to be tossed around in album of the year conversations come late December.