Joshua Deu and Win Butler met in high school, and who would have known that in the years to come, they would become close friends, begin playing and writing music together and eventually found one of today’s most prominent indie rock bands.
Win Butler, as most of us know him, is the lead singer of Arcade Fire. And while Joshua Deu left the band to further his education a year before their self-titled EP came out, we thank him for the contributions he made in laying the foregrounds for Arcade Fire to release the aforementioned EP, and the three outstanding albums that followed it (“Funeral,” “Neon Bible” and “The Suburbs”).
“Funeral” is an epic of an album, if you will. It has some of the most powerful and flat out depressing lyrics that you’ll ever find around. Most of it is an inward perspective of love, life, growing up, losing your innocence and death of family, a vibe you get right off the bat from the first song on the album. But it’s a near perfect album. Pitchfork Media ranked it the number one album of 2004, and the number two album of the decade (behind only Radiohead.)
“Neon Bible,” the band’s second release, focuses more on an outward view of the world. With strong feelings about international issues, religion and politics, it comes off as extremely philosophical, but in a way that seems to be more modern than anything else. “Neon Bible” itself seeming to be an attack on the outdated ubiquity of religion in the world we live in.
“The Suburbs” is the album that landed Arcade Fire directly into mainstream media. Not only is this arguably their best album release with a strong thematic view of the decay of modern day suburbs, and another step in a direction straying from what they released on “Funeral,” but it was also the surprise winner of the 2011 Grammy for Album of the Year going up against Eminem, Katy Perry, Lady Antebellum and Lady Gaga.
But now, they’ve released a new album and the name of the beast is “Reflektor”. This album has had a very mixed reception. Some of the “purist” fans have said that it lacks the sound they appreciated on an album like “Funeral,” because the theme seems to be less apparent and a lot looser, (this theme being the indictment of technology). Meanwhile some fans have said this is their best album yet and say that it most definitely lived up to all the hype surrounding it (as it was one of the most anticipated albums of 2013).
“Reflektor” is their most experimental album thus far and stumbles into multiple genres like new wave, dance and even some reggae beats with the help of LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, who participated heavily in the production of the album. His influence is pretty clear on a lot of the songs.
You can hear Murphy’s impact right away when you start the album with the very “dance-y” title track about , which is also the first single from the album. Throughout the rest of the album, you’re taken through a variety of genres that each have a different feeling to them. “We Exist,” while a bit boring has a more 80s pop vibe to it, whereas “Flashbulb Eyes” comes in with the sounds of vintage synths and a killer reggae bass line. You get a really neat rhythm out of “Here Comes the Night Time” and “Joan of Arc” has one of the catchiest intros, bass lines and harmonies that make me want to repeat the phrase “Jeanne d’Arc, ah ooh” about 100 times a day. All of these songs along with songs like “You Already Know” make a fantastic album. Oh, but wait, I forgot! That’s just the first disc!
The second disc kicks off with “Here Comes the Night Time II,” one of the most powerful songs on the album, which starts off with an allusion to Nine Inch Nail’s “Hurt” (popularized by Johnny Cash). Butler sings “I hurt myself again/Along with all my friends/Feels like it never ends/Here comes the night again.”
The next two songs “Awful Sound” and “It’s Never Over” refer to the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice (who also appear on the album artwork). The former is very melancholic and has a beautiful chorus and possibly the best of Butler’s vocals on the album. The latter is another song with a catchy tune, and reminds me a ton of LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean.” In addition to that, I can’t get enough of chanting “Hey, Orpheus!” in an attempt to mimic the song.
Next comes “Porno” which is probably the best song on the album as far as lyrics go as it attacks the pornography industry and modern day sexuality. “Afterlife” seems to be the most underrated song on the album and doesn’t seem to be getting much attention. Still, I enjoy it quite a bit. The message deals with the afterlife, which intertwines itself with Greek mythology, connecting the album to Orpheus yet again.
The closer on the album, “Supersymmetry,” however, seems to be one of the more overrated songs and almost unnecessary. As a closer, the concept of the song is fantastic, as it talks about a very geeky part of physics dealing with particle movement and uses it as a really amazing metaphor. But I don’t think Arcade Fire executed it all that well.
“Reflektor” is a classic, and easily one of the best record to be released this year. Arcade Fire has taken another step towards rock superstardom. There’s no doubt in my mind that in 50 years, people will remember Arcade Fire with as much fondness as people remember Led Zeppelin or The Beatles today. They’ve made it pretty clear that they’re capable of being one of the best ever by making four albums in a row that have been adored since release.
Favorite Tracks: Here Comes the Night Time, You Already Know, Joan of Arc, Here Comes the Night Time II, Awful Sound, It’s Never Over, Porno