Well just like everyone else who has been anxiously awaiting the Arcade Fire’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed album, “The Suburbs,” I, too, listened to “Reflektor” hoping it wouldn’t disappoint. I made the mistake of reading some reviews first, and most of them had me a little nervous. “It’s okay” or “There were about three good songs” were some of the phrases that came up and well, that just didn’t seem like Arcade Fire to me. And it wasn’t. I went in with an open mind, and although “Reflektor” is far from a companion to “The Suburbs,” it succeeds in its own right. And yes, that does sound like a loaded verdict, but they’re just too different to compare.
Mind you, I am FAR from a professional music critic. I understand music theory and instruments and all that jazz (pun intended). However, I will be very upfront about the fact that my appreciation of music tends to be “If it sounds good, I’m digging it.” So with that in mind, read ahead. IF YOU DARE!
Clearly, the band wanted to try something unique with this album which is why I’m assuming they brought in LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy. The album has more of a “danceable” vibe to it, which was seemingly done on purpose. But that’s not to say that they’ve moved away from their usual songs steeped in deep themes. If anything, this album has more to think about. But like I said, I’m not going to compare! And by that I mean I’m going to try really hard not to.
The album opens with the title track, “Reflektor”, which made its way through the interwebs prior to the album release. And this song is arguably one of the best. It’s got it all: mentions of heaven, Régine and her french, amazing imagery, and chilling vocals. And there was something about Win Butler singing “at a reflective age” playing on all the “reflektor” references throughout the song. And lines such as, “If this is heaven, I don’t know what it’s for. If I can’t find you there, I don’t care” open the album to something bigger than itself.
But “Reflektor” was certainly not the high point for me. “Here Comes the Night Time” is one of those tracks that really gets your head-bopping, and I saw the dance-abilty more in this track than most of the others. Perhaps, it’s that great percussive beat but everything comes together and it works. It’s almost reminiscent of walking outside on neighborhood streets on a hot day chewing bubblegum. It’s positive. And it’s fun. And of course Heaven comes up again in this song as well.
And while “Here Comes the Night Time” is upbeat, “Normal Person” has more of a dark, deep edge. Not to mention, Win confesses he’s unsure if he even likes rock music anymore. But, Win also hauntingly asks, “Is anyone as cruel as a normal person?” And throughout, it’s normalcy that’s called into question, and whether or not the narrator is indeed normal. The music is almost psychedelic with the powerful guitar riffs and the loud bass. This was definitely one of my favorite tracks. And of course I always approve of the tracks where Régine’s awesome, chilling voice gets to shine through.
“You Already Know” is also dance-worthy with great lines like “When your love is right, you can’t sleep at night.” This song was a little more upbeat than the others.
However, it’s “Joan of Arc” that truly is my favorite. Something about the juxtaposition of Win’s punching narrative set against Régine’s whimsical singing of “Jeanne D’Arc.” Perfect.
And “Here Comes the Night Time II” punches back at “Here Comes the Night” with more of an eerie take on the concept of darkness. It’s successful. You almost feel as if you’re gazing up at the twinkling stars as the fog rolls in. I actually think this track is phenomenal. Win sings, “I hurt myself again along with all my friends. Feels like it never ends. Here comes the night time.” I mean wow. And the instrumentation is amazing. It’s almost as if it takes the concept of darkness and turns it on its head. But that’s just my two cents.
“Afterlife” is another great track, which was to me a response to “Reflektor.” Régine’s vocals once again really come through on this track and the movement really picks up. It’s really relatable and listening to Win plead, “Can we just work it out?” hurts just as much as it relieves. And like he says, “When love is gone, where does it go?”
All in all, there’s a lot about “Reflektor” that is really amazing. And it’s one of those albums that you really need to listen to at least five times to really begin to even understand it. So for all those critics that say it doesn’t match up to “The Suburbs“, I think you need to listen again. I would have liked something like “Sprawl II” where Régine really gets to make the track her own, but I’m really content with this album as a whole. I’d give it 4.5/5 stars if y’know, I rated things.