Arcade Fire
Reflektor


4.5
superb

Review

by Vincent A. USER (10 Reviews)
October 25th, 2013 | 188 replies | 7,890 views


Release Date: 10/28/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A grand, inflated, endlessly inspired assertion of sonic brilliance.

16 of 16 thought this review was well written

Arcade Fire are in a rather enviable position at this stage of their career path. They have established a widespread commercial and critical appeal while operating primarily as artists-in the very literal sense of the word- rather than musicians. They have diversified their sound from album to album, not in an attempt to garner a new legion of fans with each release, but rather to accompany each record’s respective narrative and thematic tones. Each work has been representative of a uniform and carefully calculated vision, be it the lavish string-laced production on Funeral or the thematically bold commentary regarding the monotonous nature of contemporary society evident on The Suburbs. As such, the bands fourth, almost absurdly anticipated release Reflektor , regardless of its quality, will be viewed as a work with a serious sense of artistic integrity.

Thus, Reflektor is impossible to talk about in regards to the strength of its individual songs. Instead, the band suggests it is best listened to as a double LP, with two distinct halves that nonetheless weave similar thematic tendencies across the combined 13 tracks and 75 minute run time. Early singles, coupled with the James Murphy producer credit, had most listeners expecting an aesthetic combination of 80’s dance music and the group’s knack for stylistically ambitious arrangements. Indeed, lead single and title track “Reflektor” begins seemingly in the midst of a packed, restless dancefloor, but finds its lyricism drifting elsewhere as Butler croons, “if this is heaven/ I don’t know what it’s for/ if I can’t find you there / I don’t care.”

Yet, neither the apparent dance inspired aesthetic nor the James Murphy influence is as all encompassing as “Reflektor” and “Afterlife” had originally insinuated. Instead, Murphy’s artistic sway is subtle and diversely distributed throughout the album’s various sonic backdrops-like the whimsical, playful keyboard riff on “Here Comes The Night Time,” the drum-machine snare hits on “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice),” or the twinkling synthesizers deep in the mix of album closer “Supersymmetry.” Perhaps more substantially, Murphy’s philosophy regarding song structure seems evident throughout the entirety of the affair. Many of the tracks begin with a core groove or rhythm that is consistently built up and expounded upon, and seeing as a large number of them have a runtime of over five minutes, there is sufficient room for sonic exploration.

The album’s various ebbs and flows indeed feels built around the conceptual notion of the double album. Both thematically and sonically, side 1 of the record seems concerned with the “real world” and grapples with the familiar themes of day-to-day monotony akin to those explored on The Suburbs . Utilizing traditional, often guitar-driven melodies, it surely represents an aesthetic departure for the band yet feels considerably less inspired than its other half. Alternatively, the second side of the record is filled with spacey synths and the orchestral flourishes we are accustomed to from the band’s prior releases. It is indeed a more comfortable and familiar affair then the first half of the LP, often recalling the rich symphonic arrangements and weighty instrumentation of the band’s past discographical entries. The record plays out almost like a well-put-together mix-tape; not bound by any singular style, but nonetheless carefully calculated in its progressions. The production is expansive and diverse, yet altogether seamless. Similarly, neither half of Reflektor is defined by a lone thematic concept. Instead, each side of the LP seems grounded in its own set of respective tones. The first half of the record is quick-witted and visceral, consistently driven by a sense of urgency and vitality that feels distinctly concerned with secular ideals. Alternately, side two feels reverent, spiritual, and ponderous in comparison.

While Arcade Fire’s position within the indie canon is indeed enviable, there is still the sense that there was never a way that Reflektor could have exceeded its unfair expectations, at least in a traditional sense. Instead, the success of the album needs to be based on an entirely different set of criteria; does it successfully fulfill the complex vision intended by its creators? In that regard, the answer is clear. Reflektor is unabashedly bloated, ambitious, and indulgent; an imperfect, yet meticulously calculated masterpiece.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Pavelboca
October 25th 2013



82 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Real excited to write this- I've gone through the album four or five times at this point. I hope the review does it justice.


Surprised people are kind of ehh about this one- it's certainly a grower, but it's pretty damn great.

Edit- Stream here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBjqUEMlHTY

PunchforPunch
October 25th 2013



6171 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

cool

Wadlez
October 25th 2013



3868 Comments


One they won that Grammy it became uncool to like this band for some.

ti0n
October 25th 2013



1383 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Incredibly well written review. That early its an impressing work. Well done. Love the album too. Even more than NB and TS.

ti0n
October 25th 2013



1383 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Dont even know that theY won anything. Who gives a god damn fuck im here for the music you people should fucking grow up

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
October 25th 2013



6390 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Third listen now, still don't know what to think of it except that is seems their weakest so far (relatively speaking). It becomes better with every spin though.

Nice review!

Digging: Vessel - Punish, Honey

BigPleb
October 25th 2013



35453 Comments


boring as fook.

ShrillYell
October 25th 2013



185 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I have no problems with the stature of the band and what recognition they have, this album fails to reward my attention for too much of the runtime to warrant such a high score.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
October 25th 2013



3353 Comments


I never got into these guys. I'll get Reflektor to listen to as a whole.

Digging: Anberlin - Lowborn

minty901
October 25th 2013



1978 Comments


too soon

ti0n
October 25th 2013



1383 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

HIT ME WITH YOUR FLASHBULB EYYYES

DUEDUEDUE DUEEE

catchy as fuk

Gwyn.
October 25th 2013



14990 Comments


Well that was quick

Digging: diSEMBOWELMENT - Transcendence into the Peripheral

Uranium
October 25th 2013



7074 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

how the fuck were you able to absorb the album and reflekt upon it in just half a day

treeqt.
October 25th 2013



9561 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

inflated :|

Digging: Antonin Dvorak - Stabat Mater, Op. 58

dimsim3478
October 25th 2013



4841 Comments


how the fuck were you able to absorb the album and reflekt deep enough in just half a day

Probably repeated listens.

Digging: Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) - You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

Uranium
October 25th 2013



7074 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

coo does it have staying power?

DeMilQ
October 25th 2013



91 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I enjoy this more than Suburbs at this point.

avonbarksdale221
October 25th 2013



8177 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Once they won a Grammy it became uncool to like this band for some [2]

I haven't jammed this yet but the indifferent reaction it has received on this site seems disproportionate to the levels of acclaim it is receiving from most other sources.

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
October 25th 2013



2714 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"Real excited to write this- I've gone through the album four or five times at this point. I hope the review does it justice. "

Good writing and all, but it reads like you've only given this the single listen. Might have been worth the extra 4 or 5 for this one.

RobbaqPL
October 25th 2013



158 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I just don't get those speedy reviews. It usually takes a few listens for me to even remember properly what each song sounds like. Maybe it's just me though. The review seems okay.
The band's albums always turn out to be kinda hit or miss for me, actually. And the single sounded less than promising. That being said, I'll definitely give this a few spins.



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