Review Summary: The arcade fire transcends to a wildfire with an album that's very retro sounding, while sounding simultaneously very fresh.
It's hard to remember the last time an album has confidently grabbed me by the neck and pulled me into its soundscape as quickly as Arcade Fire's fourth studio album, Reflektor
, on the first listen... let alone the last time an Arcade Fire album that isn't The Funeral
has done that. And I'll admit that I found Neon Bible
largely boring and THE definition of a sophomore slump if there ever is one, and The Suburbs
had a good first couple tracks but quickly went downhill. And here they are, having knocked me flat with a single listen (though multiple listens have helped). With the retro-pop trend being romanticized as far back as the 2011 release of M83's double album Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
, Arcade Fire's fourth album is yet another album in that pastiche, and not long after Daft Punk made a comeback with a disco-influenced album. Yet despite there being many retro-pop albums released nowadays, especially in the indie genre, Reflektor
is by and large the freshest sounding one in ages.
While it is safe to say that Disco is a major influence in this record, the retro sound is thankfully not limited to Disco, and there's even a few songs that sound modern, and at times, even futuristic (by today's standards even). It is also strangely safe to say that despite Disco being a major influence, the title track is not a clear indicator of the album's overall sound. Arcade Fire still show lots of variety in the tracks on this one, and unlike the previous two albums, no three songs sound the same.
I can also happily announce that there is not one single weak song on the album, though the opening title track is probably the worst song on the album. The album only gets more and more exciting from there; perhaps the album's most epic track is "Here Comes The Night Time", a song that draws heavily from a Caribbean influence, and is enough to make you picture a nighttime party on a breezy beach in Jamaica. Interestingly enough, with this song being very upbeat and optimistic, the second part, "Here Comes the Night Time II" is cleverly very sorrowful and dysphoric, showing the band's ability to contrast to near-perfection. "We Exist" sounds very close to something that wouldn't be out of place on an early Sade record, with a highly sexual bassline and Win Butler getting his funk on. The chorus is among one of their catchiest yet, and will remain in your head long after the album ends.
In fact, in another interesting bit of contrast, disc 1 is the part of the album where most of the album's upbeat and catchy tracks appear, and disc II is where most of the slower, more melancholy tracks appear. "Afterlife" is a stunner in all sense of the word, very uptempo but full of Arcade Fire's trademark melancholy, with a very unique guitar riff and a vocal performance from Win Butler that is full of conviction and emotion throughout. Immediately after, it's followed by "Supersymmetry", which can be described as Mike Oldfield meets Muse. The eleven minute closer is a brilliant track that also ends with a spooky hidden track full of reverse guitar notes and synths, creating a very unsettling atmosphere.
It's hard to define exactly what makes the album so great. There's so much brilliance going on that all you can do is just listen and be swept into Arcade Fire's very detailed and intricate soundscape, with Arcade Fire's musicianship leading you though. Win Butler at times is like the Mad Hatter-type guide who you follow through this adventure, with the quirks and large ham loudly on display. It's almost like a musical journey down the rabbit hole through a place that is almost like Wonderland or Oz, but with a hint of melancholy that adds som realism to all the fantasy. And it's been a long time since that feeling has stuck with me through a listen of an album. If there's ever need for proof that Arcade Fire isn't just a one trick pony after all... well, this album is the best bet there is.
Well done, Arcade Fire. Well done.