Sound — 9
It was early September when I heard that Arcade Fire had a new single called "Reflektor" and I first listened to the new Arcade Fire sound. The song was majestic. Disco drums and bass, great build up and some melodies (either on guitar, or on piano) that grew on you from the first listen. The production seemed pretty much different from the previous records, but I liked the song so much I couldn't wait for the album.
Then after some time the CD was released. I was disappointed. The songs didn't seem right. I just couldn't get it. However, I found myself constantly going back on "Reflektor" or "Here Comes the Night Time." After listening to the whole album again, I found it really different. Now the sounds blend together perfectly and the whole universal "we exist, we know" idea that I couldn't get is one of the main points of what this record is about. The singing is always passionate with Win being more interested in the production and the editing (you can see them live, where he has an effect pad in front of him to use delay, reverb and many other effects on his voice). Regine delivers some pretty good vocals too (I love the harmonies she provides and the singing on "It's Never Over" and "Awful Sound").
Some of the instruments seem more close to '80s sound with synth bass, Haitian percussion and saxophones. A great example is "Here Comes the Night Time" with its groovy bass line, extended use of bongos and a chaotic outro. The overall sound gives you a strange feeling. I always dance when I listen to most of the songs. I can't help it. Then, on songs like "It's Never Over" and "Porno," Arcade Fire suggest something really great. These are the songs that put me in the album. The quality of the production is excellent with instruments blending into a dance-electronic-rock landscape. For example "Normal Person," one of the best songs of the CD, starts rhythmically to burst out in a very loud chorus with a loud smacking of the lower octaves of a piano.
Lyrics — 8
Win's lyrics always carry a theme of modern battle between us and them. Many times mentioning "we" as one in contrast with "you" and "they." I would like to know who would win in a fight: the Normal Person or the Modern Man? Also, Heaven and redemption is a theme that is discussed a lot (notably "Afterlife," "Here Comes the Night Time"). At first I really hated the lyrics of "Afterlife." This "We can work it out/till we work it out" bit seemed a bit off, but then I understood that this is the idea of the album. To work it out, scream and shout and work it out. "Afterlife" seems like a New Order song ("Temptation" riff comes to mind) with the whole band adding a tiny new gentle touch every now and then (Regine's tender vocals, William's keyboard).
Right now, "It's Never Over" is my favourite off the list, with electric guitar riffs and one of the best middle eight sections of the album. The "Seems like a big deal now, will you get over?" part always gets me. On "Porno," Win sings "You can cry, I won't go/You can scream I won't go/Every man that you know/Would have run at the word go" with Regine joining him to end the chorus. Almost every word seems to be made for the whole band to sing. That's what I love about the lyrics of this album. Their universal feel.
Overall Impression — 9
At first, "Reflektor" doesn't look like a good record. I thought it was boring and nothing close to the Arcade Fire I once knew. However, give it some more attention and you will find yourself relating to some of the lyrics, singing along to Win (I always enjoy the parts where they all sing, like the glorious ending of "Normal Person") and dancing to their disco vibe. Some songs seem a bit weak ("Joan of Arc," "Here Comes the Night Time II," "Supersymmetry"), but after a while they get along well with the rest of the album. My favourite songs are "It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)," "Normal Person," "Afterlife" and "Porno," basically because of their sound and the feelings they give you.
It is a record with many moods and gentle touches here and there (bongos, keyboards and piano lines). I'm probably buying it on vinyl too, when I get the chance. Arcade Fire did a great job on this record.