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Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor”

John Darr | Monday, September 16, 2013

It’s huge. It’s “a thing.” “Reflektor” is not just a single – it’s an event.

Indie rock band Arcade Fire announced over the summer the release date of their highly anticipated new album to be Oct. 29.  Eagerly awaiting fans finally have something to tide them over for their last month of waiting – the release of the album’s first single.

The title of the song, along with its Sept. 9 release date, first cropped up in August via puzzling chalk-drawn logos spread through a mysterious Instagram account. The strange image contained a square inside a circle, with the letters of the single and album title scrambled inside.  After weeks of speculation, the Canadian band claimed the images, confirming “Reflektor” as the title of their new album and first single – via a huge chalk mural in downtown New York. When the date finally came around, Arcade Fire dropped not only the single but also two new music videos (go to https://www.justareflektor.com/ to experience the better of the two).

It’s clear a lot of heart (and money) went into “Reflektor.” But does it matter if the song itself is nothing special?

Thankfully, we don’t have to ask that question. Arcade Fire has always been a musical giant, crafting massive anthems out of soaring choruses and driving verses. On “Reflektor,” they team up with James Murphy, the songwriter and producer behind LCD Soundsystem, and longtime-fan David Bowie to deliver a straight-up jam fest that simply rocks.

It’s all here – dance-y disco vibes, funky bass grooves and a fist pumping chorus with a killer guitar riff. The song rollercoasters brilliantly, driving, building, collapsing only to drive, build and collapse again. The lyrics, meanwhile, follow the energy perfectly. At the heart of the song is the idea that we find in art only what we want to see – that it is “just a reflector.” The deep messages and meanings in which we “find a way to enter” the world on a deeper level are in actuality simply reflections of what we already believe. Lead vocalist and songwriter Win Butler recalls his blind love and dedication to art during the brooding verse, and on the chorus he builds it up before harshly breaking it down.

But what keeps the song from sinking into melancholia is a resistance to that idea. Butler sings with defiance – he’s scared of the possibility that art is a reflector, but it’s what he loves, and he’s going to continue being an artist until that passion is gone. “Reflektor” calls us to be aware of our own weaknesses and to be suspicious of what we feel a deep connection to, but it also calls us to never give up what we love or who we are in the face of uncertainty.

If this song is any indictor, Arcade Fire’s new album to be released in just over a month is going to be well worth the wait.

Contact John Darr at jdarr@nd.edu