Reflektor, Arcade Fire Converts a Nonbeliever

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I am a converted nonbeliever.  I listen to alternative and indie music with a discerning ear, applying sound judgment (self-appraised) to separate the good from the great.  As I dove deeper to this pool of music, one name resurfaced repeatedly: Arcade Fire.  I developed a bias that the band must have lost its authenticity with ongoing commercial success.  Admittedly, I never spent much time with the group’s pieces, aside from “The Suburbs,” from their album with the same title. Reflektor changed all that.  With their highly anticipated fourth full-length album, Arcade Fire refuses to fall into a creative pigeonhole.  The band released Reflektor over two discs, each gripping in their own right.  The first disc resembles modern alt-pop (at least as much as a band like Arcade Fire can resemble its peers), with compelling bass lines, Arctic Monkeys-esque angst, and a sound that is both grounded and raw.  Throughout disc two, the band seems to invite us into their creative steam of consciousness.  Airy, dreamy and happily short of pontifical, side two makes a marked turn from the norm.

I particularly enjoyed “Here Comes the Night Time” from disc one.  As a reporter from Pitchfork describes, “tempo fake-outs” alternate suddenly between “celebratory Carnival beat[s]” and “a slower, dub-inflected pace.”  This detail creates a “charming scrappiness…, like a marching band suddenly realizing they're going the wrong way and trying, calamitously, to turn around.”  From disc two, “Afterlife,” although certainly not a stereotypical dance tune, makes me want to get up and jump around wildly with my friends.  Bongos and a saxophone solo set against a driving keyboard melody best accompany confetti cannons.

Arcade Fire actively resists pressure to conform to any one sound. To them, the message of their music trumps the band itself.  In Reflektor, the band focuses on how aligning with your public perception in the wake of success can subtract from your true essence.  You risk falling into the trap of playing to what people expect, rather than pursuing more self-fulfilling creative efforts.  To this point, Arcade Fire incorrectly introduced themselves as “The Reflektors” before performing for the first time songs from their new album on The Colbert Report.

I hesitate to predict a song that will become a classic from this album.  Rather, the album itself is the masterpiece.  Each song earns merit by the pieces that surround it. Strap in, tune in and let Reflektor take you on an audial journey of what it means to follow your true path.