Arcade Fire’s ‘Reflektor’ long-awaited triumph

Arcade Fires Reflektor long-awaited triumph

Urmilla Kuttikad

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Arcade fire cover

Autumn is the perfect time to fall in love with music. Some claim New Year’s is the time for new beginnings, but I don’t buy it. Autumn – when the noses and cheeks of leaves ruddy into a violent burgundy at the cold, when little kids outside become unrecognizable lumps of waddling wool – that’s when things start over.

Sometimes it feels like there’s some absentminded sense of vacancy to starting over, though, a loss of roots and familiarity. But I’ve found that the bright-eyed glow you feel when you’re freshly enamored with music fills that vacancy and tempers the cold well.

Accordingly – maybe because I want to, maybe because it’s subconscious – I fall in love with a lot of artists in the fall and winter. Last year, it was mainly Fleet Foxes (as anyone who was around to hear me blast them non-stop for all of first semester and most of second can attest). This year, there have been a lot: The National, Grizzly Bear, Tame Impala, Radiohead and a re-falling-in-love-with The Beatles. And then there’s Arcade Fire.
Out of every band I’ve grown to love in these past few months, Arcade Fire is the coolest. I try to use the word “cool” sparingly in my vocabulary because every now and then, something will come along that just really, really deserves the title. And to be honest, I can’t think of very many adjectives that fit Arcade Fire better than cool. Deliciously weird, maybe? Either way, I fell in love with Arcade Fire hard, and I fell in love with them fast.
Their earlier sound, like in their debut album “Funeral,” is anthem-like, alternatingly uplifting and grim in the band’s earnest, shimmering way, tinged with the vibe that lead singers and married couple Win Butler and Regine Chassagne have built Arcade Fire upon. As the band moved forward, however, in the albums “Neon Bible” and especially “The Suburbs,” they gain confidence. They never lose their anthem-like and earnest sound, but among the shy songs like “Modern Man” are interspersed ones that could just as easily be danced to, like “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).”
Arcade Fire’s third album, “The Suburbs,” came out in 2010, and longtime fans have understandably been suffering a touch of insanity, craving new Arcade Fire. And after three years, they finally got it last week with the release of Arcade Fire’s newest album, “Reflektor.” It would seem that Arcade Fire has been burrowed away, taking beaming shots of self-esteem and kicking up their courage, because “Reflektor” is their most confident and vibrant album yet by leaps and bounds.
When Arcade Fire released the title track, “Reflektor,” back in September, I knew the album would be good. The first time I heard the single, I thought it was weird – maybe a little too weird, and I didn’t listen to it again. But then a couple days later I inexplicably found myself wanting to listen to it again. And then again and again, and you know how the story goes. The song “Reflektor” is a pretty decent embodiment of the album. A little weird, as expected, but confident, driven by strong rhythms and catchy melodies crooned by Butler and Chassagne’s distinctive voices.
Though the sound falls short of “happy,” the song and the album as a whole are (dare I say it?) groovy. In part, this is influenced by the time the band spent in Haiti, where Chassagne’s parents were born. I think it may be physically impossible not to dance a little all over – at the elbows and knees and cheekbones and shins and lips – at songs like “Here Comes the Night Time” and “Afterlife.” I’m not well-versed enough in the technical side of music to list off the bass lines or specific rhythmic structures that make this album fantastic, but I know that there’s nothing forced about this album – just an easy sense that the band is having a lot of fun, that every impossibly marginal detail comes together to create a profoundly moving sound, that listening to it makes me happy.
Arcade Fire’s not for everyone, but I can’t over-recommend giving “Reflektor”’s groovy coolness a try.
By Urmila Kutikkad