Two years ago, ‘The Suburbs’ gained Arcade Fire commercial and critical success, which has naturally caused their fourth album release, Reflektor, to become one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year. Its release was preceded with cryptic logos, including an enigmatic graffiti campaign, scrawling ‘reflektor’ upon various buildings and objects, all devoid of explanation. The announcement that James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem) would be co-producing the album heightened expectation and exemplifies a shift in direction, musically steering away from the commercial status that ‘The Suburbs’ was attributed with. It’s a refreshing risk that the band have embarked upon throughout Reflektor.
The record is ambitious, split into two distinct volumes with nearly all the songs exceeding six minutes in length, creating two journeys for the listener to board. It seems appropriate to begin with the album’s titular and first song, ‘Reflektor’, which features vocals from David Bowie. It’s definitive of Arcade Fire’s majestic quality, whilst integrating a disco hybrid as Chassagne and Butler sublimely echo ‘this is a reflector’, creating a ongoing lyrical pattern. The song was introduced through the Vincent Morisset directed interactive video which turns the viewer into a responsive observer, as well as a literal reflection of the video itself through the use of its media.
It’s also an insight into the band’s personal life, as the video is directed in Haiti; Chassagne is of Haitian descent and it’s certainly become a place and culture of influence upon this record. This is most highlighted within ‘Here Comes The Night’, which creates a slower pulse through a consistent drumbeat, steering the rhythm of the song, but it also incorporates six Haitian percussionists which act as a circus-like relief throughout the chorus.
‘We Exist’ illustrates a musical shift from the harmonious vocals, and instead is reminiscent of an 80s pop-rock Bon Jovi/Springsteen record. This influence is also apparent within ‘Normal Person’, which affirms a new, bolder sound for the band. The second volume of the album relaxes into lyrics built around Greek mythology – songs’ titles cry for Eurydice and Orpheus, then ‘Joan of Arc’ concludes one volume by opening with intense punk, but developing into a French electronic vocal from Chassagne.
Reflektor is creatively ambitious, displaying songs that are more complex, yet still embody a mysterious and eclectic sound. Arcade Fire have successfully dared to be lyrically and musically motivated, to push their sound and art further, exceeding expectation.By Niamh Connelly