An interesting yet unsurprising follow-up to 2010's The Suburbs, Reflektor is another bloated, exploratory concept album from everyone's favorite Canadian chamber-alt turned mainstream outfit. This time, the record's storyline is centered around the harsh duality between connect/disconnect in the digital age; Arcade Fire has been touring not under their usual playful moniker but rather marauding around as "The Reflektors," a collective alter ego that indicates a statement along the lines of: "We are not entertainers, but mirrors! We are REFLEKTING the hideous truths of modern life to the listener!" Edgy.
Themes of unease and disillusion lace the majority of Reflektor's lyrical content. Win Butler's writing is as high-brow and borderline condescending as ever (approaching aboriginal beliefs of photography on "Flashbulb Eyes"; several references to an underwhelming concept of heaven ("Here Comes the Night Time" and the title track); and finally a track called "Normal Person" about the horrors of conformity - yeah, seriously).
Sonically, this is clearly and identifiably an Arcade Fire album from start to finish. The lush layers of instrumentation in the vein of electric guitars, huge choruses and harmonies, and the influences of African drumming among arena-like echoing fills are accounted for as they've always been since Funeral. There are noticeably less electronic flourishes on the front half of Reflektor, while the back end capitalizes on bubbling synth basslines and chord progressions - foremost on "Porno."
The production is tight and polished, yet still retains a rock 'n' roll (and at times even punk) grit that breaks through most notably on the latter half of "Normal Person." No surprise, a large portion of the album was done by James Murphy (DFA, LCD Soundsystem) and his influence on Reflektor is a welcome one. Also apparently David Bowie sang on the title track. Allegedly this is a "big deal" despite the fact that his presence can easily go unnoticed.
Recommended tracks: 1:1 "Reflektor", 2:2 "Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)", 2:5 "Afterlife"