After all the hype over the past few months, a non-descript email arrived in my inbox last night with a download of the new Arcade Fire album, Reflektor. It may be old school, but I always like to give a full listen to the whole thing before hacking up individual songs. At first glance, I was concerned that I didn't get everything since thirteen songs seemed low as a total for a double album. Disc One contains seven songs and Disc Two holds six, but most of the songs are over five minutes with the contemplative final track, "Supersymmetry," clocking in at 11:17. Several tunes are now familiar by all the airplay on KCRW, KEXP and WFUV, performances on SNL, and that Brooklyn Warehouse fiasco I witnessed but could not see much of anything. Plus NPR streamed a live session with the band last night on the eve of the release, listen to the archive here. This new material simply comes alive, whether in performance or during the carefully ordered, produced version.
However, I was surprised at all the ambient noise of crowds and live concert banter, a different approach by this powerhouse indie band. Much has also been said about Arcade Fire's connection to dance music, as mastered by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and founder of DFA Records (one of the producers of the record along with long-time collaborator, Markus Dravs). The synths certainly predominate, but there's also plenty of hand percussion and congas, as trips to Haiti and Jamaica influenced the band as well. Plus the heady themes of mortality keep the listener thinking about the bigger issues beyond dancing at a party. Along with the solid single/title track with a cameo by rock legend David Bowie, "Afterlife" continues to be my favorite song from the album -- take a listen in the official video below. And be sure to check out the entire effort, it's definitely well worth your time.