Best New Albums of 2013 – #17: Arcade Fire – Reflektor

Running through the end of the month (with a short Christmas break), I’ll be running a post each weekday taking a look at one of my top 20 albums of the year, slowly working my way down to number one. Some I’ve reviewed previously for Bearded Gentlemen Music – I’ll provide links where necessary – and the entire list will eventually end up there, too. But for most of these records, this is the first time I’m writing about them at length, making this a chance to explain my choices in a little greater detail. Last year’s list is no longer online, but for 2011’s Best Canadian Music click here and for 2010’s list, click here.

#17: Arcade Fire – Reflektor

Who knew Arcade Fire could sound so funky?

Sure, it’s nowhere near the funkiest record of the year, but dancing to Arcade Fire is an experience I can’t say many people thought about before this fall. After all, this is the band who sounded so different from everything else back in the Funeral era. And by the time they released The Suburbs, they were pounding away on just a few chords.

It was a jarring experience. And I’m glad I didn’t have to review it right away: at first, I didn’t like this one. I thought it was slick, too slick in fact, slick because it was trying to pull something over on me. What kind of something? Maybe too many songs, maybe them trying to stuff too many things into the pie, so to speak, and hope you’ll be too overwhelmed to notice.

But the more I listen to this, the more I like it. Under the catchy basslines and horns is the same old band as always. The title track occasionally lapses into French and Flashbulb Eyes is just as spiky as anything from their first couple LPs. Normal Person has them rocking out like they did on Month of May, only now it’s more trashy, less punky kind of rock.

By the time you get to the second CD, things start falling into place. Lush strings, subdued singing, post punk rhythms and reference to Greek Mythology start popping up. So do familiar sounds: I feel like I recognize the bassline on Porno from somewhere, but I can’t place it. Same with Here Comes the Nighttime.

One thing that’s nice about the collapse of CD sales is it finally gives artists the chance to make double albums again. The Arcade Fire has the room to make a double CD record and have it cost about the same as their other, shorter ones. Do they need the extended canvas? I’m not sure. There’s a few songs here I haven’t bothered with more than couple times and even some of the ones I like go on for a little too long; the opening cut, for example, goes on for over seven minutes.

Still, there’s more hits than misses here. And frankly, I like dancing to some of these. Having fun, dancing to Win Butler’s singing… who’d have guessed?




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