Arcade Fire have built towards Reflektor’s release with a pair of music videos (one of the interactive variety ), a bazonkers TV special , a handful of high-energy, formal-attire-mandatory secret shows and, of course, enough Papier-mâché heads to tax the budget of any arts & crafts store.
And after all that, they’ve finally decided to explore traditional routes of promotion: an album stream.
Yes, five days ahead of its release, on Thursday, Arcade Fire unveiled Reflektor in all of its 85 minute, two-disc glory, debuting the album on YouTube over footage of Marcel Camus’ 1959 film “Black Orpheus.” And it’s definitely a disparate listen. The first disc — which kicks off with the title track and runs through the rousing “Joan of Arc” — is live and loose, full of songs that stomp and strut, like the sleek “We Exist,” the Stones-y “Normal Person” and the sonically schizophrenic “Here Comes The Night Time,” where rhythms collide with one another like drunken revelers at a party.
The second side of the album, however, is somber and slightly somnambulant, relying on synthesizers and strings rather than guitars and percussion. These flourishes work to fabulous effect on tracks like swooning “Afterlife,” which builds on New Order-inspired synths, and the back-to-back emotional wallop of “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” and “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus),” inspired by the mythological lovers who grace Reflektor’s cover.
The side — and the album — ends with the gorgeously weary “Supersymmetry,”all burbling electronics and womb-like atmospherics, and then, after several seconds of silence, the sound of tape being rewound. That essentially makes Reflektor a musical Möbius Strip, though perhaps it’s also more than mere studio trickery: It’s as if Win Butler and Co. are saying that this album is less about the pleasures of the temporal, and more about the struggles of the eternal, that, like the star-crossed couple on its cover, Reflektor is about desires than can never be fulfilled, ideas that are forever out of reach … and our curse is that we never stop trying to attain them.
Or something like that. Maybe it’s best to leave the big thinking for another day. The year’s most anticipated rock album has finally arrived. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.