Arcade Fire – Reflektor Review

After taking the world by storm in 2011 with their third album Suburbs; Arcade Fire are to return with their fourth: Reflektor. Without a doubt this is possibly the most pivotal moment yet for Arcade Fire as a band because of the high expectation from their third album which has made them big players now in terms of the world’s top groups. With that in mind the scrutiny will be on a whole new level for them. Getting James Murphy in as producer is a positive step simply because he’s a musician as well and is a pretty capable one at that. Besides that; you can always get in a guest artist to re-focus and perhaps enhance out-put and having the presence of David Bowie working on the album with you will probably do that. The sound they’ve created is perhaps their most experimental and intriguing but does it have the desired effect?

‘Reflektor’ is a song that has percussion and a rhythm riff that creates a solid hook and one that might get you dancing if you’re not careful. The vocals are spaced out well and sit perfectly above the instrumental hook with the switch to French on the bridge keeping you on your toes and adding to the variety. The burst of the horns too; gives the hook an extra kick as well. The song goes on to take up a highly atmospheric build up and instant fall as it realigns itself back to normal. Something which won’t fail you when done in such a way. The slight sound of Bowie will be make people even more excitable when you can clearly hear the great man himself towards the end of the song and it sounds like it could work well with him in other songs with his vocal against a wash of rhythm and melody. Despite being crammed full of different elements and three different vocals; nothing kills off anything else and they’ve utilised the plus seven minutes they had to good effect to really spread everything out and keep the atmospheric quality of it as well as retaining a lot of room for everything too. ‘Afterlife exudes rhythmic quality and finesse with the mix of conventional and Caribbean-like percussion and the short stabs at the synths have the same effect. The other elements are easily spread across the bass groove and rhythm with the more echoed and softer synth chords and the distorted riffs flowing across it all. This provides a stable foundation for the vocals to fall on to. The backing echoed backing vocals stretching and expanding Butler’s more immediate vocal out and into the faded synths while still sitting above the music to give the song the direction it needs. The song draws to a conclusion was a culmination of various tones and styles of synth which will usually have a more lasting effect than an abrupt or lazy ending.

‘Here Comes The Night Time’ starts more suddenly with a more staggered structure which the vocals base themselves around briefly until the shift in tone ushered in by the piano’s melody. The reverberating guitars and the repeating of the song title lyric builds up the sound for the third change of tone within the first minute. The song returns to its staggered and steady beat but this time is woven together by faded guitars and synths in the background. Though the song sounds tame at times, it really doesn’t lose focus and they certainly can’t be accused to that with the fourth change of tone which rapidly speeds up the songs layout of which I still haven’t decided if it works or not. Regardless of this they masterfully pull the song back into its primary rhythm and beat and their attempts can certainly be appreciated in how they maintained the songs flow despite the tone changes. ‘You Already Know’ is very catchy and full of harmony and pop melody but it is standard indie fodder in that sense, but still a song they worked well. ‘Awful Sound’ is characterized by the contrasting sounds of the steady bass line and the rapid and more intricate percussion which allows the guitar to layer itself on top. A standard feature but utilised in quite a different fashion of which they pretty much pulled off. All in all; I think that they’ve been treat a little too harshly by some critics who have failed to grasp what they’ve tried to do; particularly with the percussion. But having said that, this album is not their finest work but is evidence of how they can advance their work in the future.

Arcade Fire – Reflektor = 8/10

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