By Bradley Garrett Barnes
What if electronic music duo Daft Punk didn’t get lucky?
What if they had stayed up all night attempting to make music and were empty-handed? What kind of album would they have made if they went home and opened a bottle of Pernod wine and wrote a few songs about their failed attempts at the French dance clubs? They’d probably have created something much like “Reflektor,” the latest effort from Canadian indie-rockers Arcade Fire. The bands fourth album manages to channel a tranquil and atmospheric follow-up to their last album, Grammy award-winning “The Suburbs.”
The opening title track, “Untitled,” is an intimate, disco-driven exchange between band members and husband and wife Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, pairing the two as they trade verses in English and French. The song sets the mood for the rest of the first disc:
“If this is heaven, I don’t know what it’s for/ If I can’t find you there, I don’t care.”
Produced by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, “Reflektor” remains cohesive as it travels between the introductory crisp, rhythm-driven sound and cosmic ambience in the second half. The two-disc concept album covers a lot of ground, and the instrumentation seems familiar without being derivative.
Centered on the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, much of the second disc explores this myth, focusing on the distance between the two. Eurydice is trapped in the underworld, and Orpheus seeking to recover his lover.
In “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice),” the music swells in to the chorus, asserting the bard’s claim:
“I know there’s a way/we can make ‘em pay/Think it over and say/’I’m never going back again.”
His response follows in the next track, “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus).” The song features stacked choral harmonies calling out to Orpheus to “wait until it’s over” and asking him to bide his time:
“It seems so important now, but you will get over/And when you get over, when you get older/Then you will remember why it was so important then.”
If “The Suburbs” could be considered a critique of our previous generation’s suburban sprawl and conspicuous consumption, then “Reflektor” is a glimpse at our own time and the difficulty of managing a life of over-stimulation and bored self-awareness. The album pumps, there’s no doubt, but, in the words of Butler himself:
“If this is heaven, I need something more.”