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Tuesday October 21st 2014

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Ears & Fingers 11/07/13

by Jason Leger

Arcade Fire – ‘Reflektor’

Sometimes, to see the bigger picture, we have to broaden our own horizons. Instead of simply adjusting our focus, there are times when we must find ourselves a whole new lens. Moments enter our lives where we find that our own perspective just won’t do, and in order to find a way forward, perhaps we have to revisit the past. There are few ways to understand where we are going that are as cogent as understanding where we have been.

“You’re down on your knees, begging us please; praying that we don’t exist.” These lyrics unfold on “We Exist,” the second track from Arcade Fire’s fourth full length, “Reflektor,” just before they are dutifully answered with the track’s titular line. Over the course of the past several months, we have all been made very aware of Arcade Fire’s existence. What began early in the summer with a mere tweet to a fan, grew like wildfire into a massive PR campaign to promote “Reflektor,” including secret shows under a collective surname, leaks of songs through secret channels, and finally a YouTube post of the entire 85 minute LP. If “Reflektor” managed to catch you off guard, you have probably spent the better portion of this year in an underwater cave with your eyes closed and ears covered.

Win and Regine Butler, along with their cast of musicians, have always been ambitious and full of desire to tell stories. From their own past on “Funeral” to the bleakness they have found in religion on “Neon Bible” to the somberness which exists in suburbia on their Grammy flare “The Suburbs,” Arcade Fire have brought stories into our lives which we can all connect to and empathize with. However, after the booming success of “The Suburbs,” one would have been remiss to not think to himself, “How could they top this?”

Well, it really seems simple. Go into musical territory where you’ve never ventured, write songs about the human condition and things which compound its volatility, throw James Murphy behind the board, and sneak David Bowie into the cracks for good measure. Reeking of the influence of greats like Byrne, Eno, Bowie, and Murphy’s own LCD Soundsystem, “Reflektor” is easily the band’s most far reaching piece of art to date, and is certain to open them up to a broader audience than even their Grammy could. Mostly lacking the Springsteen-tinged indie rock from previous releases, while not completely being devoid of original elements of Arcade Fire, this new long player is more Calypso, more neo-disco, more funk, and adds a new dimension to an already versatile group of musicians proving that they deserve any attention that comes their way.

Early on in September, the album’s title track, an almost 8 minute dance anthem, was released via two videos and gave us our first taste of what was to come. We celebrated, because this song showed a promise of big things on the horizon. Now that I have been able to take in the entire picture, I can say that “Reflektor” slides easily into place as part of this grand puzzle, where each song plays off the others and helps to form a holistic work. Other highlights include the aforementioned “Billie Jean”-esque “We Exist,” the sobering “Here Comes the Night Time,” which was written about the time Win Butler spent in Haiti, as well as the pulsing “Afterlife.” With a gap of sound in between, the album is separated into two movements from “Reflektor” to “Joan of Arc,” then from “Here Comes the Night Time II” to the slow-burning, nearly bare bones closer “Supersymmetry.”

Giving us a bit more of a lighthearted approach musically, while still maintaining heavy thematic imagery, Arcade Fire have continued to show us why they are on top of the indie(ish) rock food chain. “Reflektor” is out now via Merge Records.