If you haven’t listened to an Arcade Fire album since Funeral, the music on Reflektor will come as a bit of a surprise. Since their debut album, the Canadian band has moved away from traditional indie-rock and towards a more ephemeral and unconventional sound. This shift is most noticeable in their latest album, which almost completely ditches classic rock conventions in favour of alternative dance and disco.
While to some this may sound like heresy, the ever-changing nature of Arcade Fire’s music is part of what has kept the band so relevant and popular over the past decade.
Reflektor is split into two discs, the first of which is dominated by high-energy, disco-heavy songs. The highest points of the album are found here, including the pulsing title track “Reflektor” and the glam-rock inspired “Normal People.” However, both are overshadowed by “Joan of Arc,” which closes out the first disc with a triumphant yet bittersweet anthem backed up by a phenomenal bass line.
The second disc of Reflektor has a more grandiose sound, yet is ultimately weaker. Lush, expansive songs dominate this disc but — while there are exceptional moments — these can feel too muted when compared to the album’s frenetic first half. “Porno” stands out as one of the better tracks on this disc, with its melancholy, synthetic sound more than making up for the song’s slightly underwhelming lyrics.
Indie-rock traditionalists won’t find a lot to love with Reflektor, but that doesn’t stop the album from being one of the most impressive and enjoyable of the year. While other indie-rock megabands are content to sit comfortably on their laurels, Arcade Fire continually challenges themselves to be something more. Reflektor is different from any of their other albums and, ultimately, more ambitious.