My first introduction to Arcade Fire's Reflektor was through an enchanting self-titled music video, nearly eight minutes of black & white footage that read much like a short film. Cinematic is an appropriate term when describing the sound of Arcade Fire's latest album Reflektor as a whole, every vaulted track materializing a story one has to imagine could easily be adapted to the screen.
Reflektor's cinematic qualities and large sound packs an unshakable confidence behind it. Just when things threaten to spill over into an unmanageable chaos, the instrumentation finds order in the storm. That type of control is something Arcade Fire has worked long to master, but it certainly doesn't hurt to be working with David Bowie throughout the process of recording.
Worth mentioning is the inclusion of James Murphy as a producer on the album. Murphy, still freshly retired from the LCD Soundsystem, puts his talents to work for Arcade Fire in a natural union of sound. The product is a gritty electric tone that beats steady life into Reflektor.
Reflektor comes loaded with grand ambitions, which is saying something for a band like Arcade Fire. Having probed themes such as sequestered suburbia and religion in albums past, Reflektor is the next logical step in Arcade Fire's evolution.
It's easy for a band as celebrated as Arcade Fire to fall victim to complacency, having recently won a Grammy award for the coveted Album of the Year with The Suburbs. Upon first listen through the album however, it's abundantly clear the band is still hungry — a band that perhaps only fears the detriment that often comes with complacency.
Reflektor, like so many Arcade Fire albums, requires several listens to fully appreciate. Heavily stacking on the layers, there are certain sounds and subtleties you’re only likely to discover with repeated listening. Much like the band's evolutionary sound, each track is rooted in a deep desire to explore what's left.
There are plenty of over-the-top exultations to employ when discussing Arcade Fire's catalog of work, but one of the band’s greatest strengths has been to simply create a terrific rock song. On "Normal Person", the recording starts off with a wobbly piano riff looming over Win Butler's faint dialogue before he launches into frenzied and anxious vocals.
The track that ends the first half of the album, "Joan Of Arc", effectively captures the anxiousness found on Reflektor before things shift down. Propelled by a heavy layer of distorted bass, "Joan Of Arc" captures some of the best rhythmic tendencies found on The Suburbs. An inflated chorus hurtles Reflektor to one of the highest upward trajectories found on the album, worthy of filling some of the largest stadiums — and undoubtedly will in the very near future.
Arcade Fire is not without criticism. Their sound has been deemed suffocating by some and in truth, the band does cast a vain projection at times. But Reflektor is an album that is looser both in terms of its gritty imperfection and broad scope — these tracks are alive. As such, Reflektor could very well be considered Arcade Fire's best album to date.
It's hard to imagine the band that released Funeral in 2004 would reach such heights in such a relatively small period of time, yet Arcade Fire has become a mainstream success story. The band has outgrown many of their peers through a dogged determination move forward, quick to dismiss and rest comfortably upon their own accolades.
What's next for Arcade Fire? It probably comes as no surprise that a band with such cinematic quality has been asked to score a film. Arcade Fire is supplying the soundtrack for Spike Jonze's "Her", a sci-fi romance starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson. The band previously supplied recorded material for Jonze's "Where The Wild Things Are".
This article was written by Tyler Thursby, writer for Travel Hymns.