After Arcade Fire debuted three songs from its upcoming album “Reflektor” during its September NBC concert special, “Here Comes the Night Time,” it became clear that the band was departing from its usual indie rock sound and opting for more of a dance vibe.
Following the group’s 2010 album, “The Suburbs,” which won Album of the Year at the 2011 Grammy Awards, the album “Reflektor” builds on the band’s ambition to create extensive albums.
As with all of the group’s albums, there is a clear artistic theme sprinkled throughout the record. This time it is not death nor modern societal issues as heard in 2004’s “Funeral” or 2010’s “The Suburbs.” Instead, the band is fixated on the idea of what reality is.
Unlike previous albums in which lead singer Win Butler sounded as if he was surrounded by music, thanks to the six-10-member band lineup, this time he seems to be singing alone in an empty room on a handful of tracks.
The album’s title track, “Reflektor,” is a good example of how exploring a new sound can be successful. The group keeps the lengthy seven-minute track fresh by mixing up instruments and passing vocals from Butler to Régine Chassagne, the group’s leading lady and then to a ghostly David Bowie.
Arcade Fire may have a different sound, but it retains the themes that have allowed the group’s music to feel as if it has weight to it. Specifically, the track “Afterlife,” which deals with conflict and the unknown, picks up the group’s obsession with lacking understanding of the world the band lives in.
The track “Normal Person” is perhaps the group’s most successful blend of signature Arcade Fire lyrics that bleed of suburban anxiety while integrating the new sound of “Reflektor.” “Normal Person” has a fun sound reminiscent of a Talking Heads song as Butler asks “Am I a normal person?” and “Is anything as strange as a normal person?”
The second disc of the album is full of tracks stretching over six minutes, with some songs finding a better way to fill the time than others.
“Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” is one such track, which continues the album’s love for a strong bass guitar and percussions, but takes it slow as Butler swoons his way around like it’s a Velvet Underground song from the late Lou Reed.
The track “Porno” stands out as being perhaps the emptiest sounding song on the album, with Butler sounding as if he is crooning alone in a recording booth as a producer pushes buttons and his band mates simply watch and chime in occasionally.
But while the album has low points, such “Porno” and the uneventful track “Flashbulb Eyes,” Arcade Fire on a bad day is more talented and interesting than most modern bands.
Artists like to experiment and Arcade Fire certainly
succeeded in its new sound with strong tracks such as “Reflektor,” “Normal Person” and “Afterlife.”
The album will hit shelves on Tuesday but fans received a sneak peak on Thursday when the band briefly put “Reflektor” on YouTube in its entire 75-minute length.