Although recording on Reflektor began in 2011, it took two years for the album to reach a state of completion. At some point in 2012, Arcade Fire began working with LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy (which is always a wise decision). But even before then, the band had immersed themselves in the particular musical stylings of Haiti and Jamaica, even going so far as to move to the latter place with their other producer, Markus Dravs (who has worked with Bjork and The Maccabees). The commitment to a particular type of musical genre rarely wavers in the indie rock and pop world. For the Arcade Fire, it was co-vocalist Régine Chassagne’s Haitian background that led them to rara, a Haiti-specific form of street and festival music. So devoted to the cause of Haitian musical stylings, Arcade Fire's marketing campaign even consisted of veve drawings (which are, creepily enough, symbols used in voodoo) to promote the album. And so, it's safe to say that the band has fully embraced a new musical genre--and it's for the better.
The first song (and the first single) on the album, "Reflektor," opens with a distinct, almost tribal beat. The sound of Win Butler's raspy, hushed voice lends a sense of illicitness to the track, while Chassagne's mellifluous French vocals add to the lamenting nature of the song. Lyrics like, "We're so connected, but are we even friends?" set a tone for intensity and reflectiveness (or reflektiveness). Following is the obviously titled "We Exist," a more rock-tinged song with frequent surrealist riffs. Butler returns to his natural penchant for blue collar lyrics with the query, "Daddy, it's true/I'm different from you/But tell me why you treat me like this?" Upon first hearing the intro to "Flashbulb Eyes," you might briefly mistake it for Jay-Z's "Tom Ford," but it then quickly delves into that rara style the band has become so fond of. And then, for some reason, there are moments where the backbeat sounds like Sublime's "April 29, 1992."
"Here Comes the Night Time," ominous sounding as it may be, is an inviting song of celebration. With an opening that builds with a frenetic beat, the song then transitions into something far more island-appropriate. Laidback and whimsical, Butler pays homage to the advent of night with exuberant lyrics. A soulful piano tune is then introduced and that's pretty much the pinnacle of how good this song gets. "The Normal Person" is what Arcade Fire sounds like at their most Bruce Springsteen-esque (even the title is an indication of that). The guitars eventually shift to something that perhaps Jack White would approve of.
"You Already Know" opens with the echo of a Sid Vicious-sounding voice screaming "Arcade Fire!" The folksy vibe of the track is interspersed with too real for your deal musings like, "Please stop wondering why you feel so sad, when you already know." This song is succeeded by the epic "Joan of Arc," which is naturally laden with frequent French renderings of her name by Chassagne. The song works on a literal and personally romantic level as Butler sings, "You had a vision that they couldn't see so they put you down/They're the ones who put you down 'cause they have no heart/But I'm the one who'll follow you 'cause you're my Joan of Arc."
The second half of the album, which is its own separate disc (even though discs don't really exist anymore), finds the band emulating their previous album, The Suburbs, by including a song called "Here Comes the Night Time II" (much like "Sprawl (Flatland)" and "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains"). Much more lugubrious in tone, the wistfulness is continued on the subsequent "Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)." Because the album is influenced by the film Black Orpheus--and the legend itself--it only makes sense that Eurydice would be mentioned at some point on Reflektor. The "awful sound" in question is very possibly a reference to the sound Eurydice might have made upon seeing Orpheus turn around as they left Hades.
Next is, appropriately, "It's Never Over (Hey Orpheus)," which sounds vaguely like an uplifting song on the soundtrack to an 80s movie. The perfect complement to "Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)," this is one of those songs that's perfect to listen to when you're trying to accomplish a task you think you'll never finish (except during that part when Butler starts talking all slowly and quietly--but, shit, when it starts building up again, get ready). "Porno" is a track that could possibly be in a classier 70s porn movie (you know, something Linda Lovelace-y). The transfixing beat is complemented by lyrics that would make you think Butler and Chassagne hate each other as he laments, "I thought I knew you/You thought you knew me/And now that you do/It's not so easy."
The second to last track, "Afterlife," consistently leaves you feeling like something is about to bubble to the surface, and, though it never quite does, you're most definitely left with an existential (maybe this is where Kierkegaard's The Present Age influence comes in) sentiment. Butler notes, "Afterlife/I think I saw what happens next/It was just a glimpse of you/After all this time, it was like nothing we used to know." It is one of the most lachrymose offerings on the album--apart from "Supersymmetry," the lengthy, albeit necessary, conclusion to Reflektor. Dreamy and meditative (like so many Arcade Fire songs), "Supersymmetry" segues into a hidden track at the six minute mark that you'll notice right away if you haven't been sent into a trance from the previous six minutes. This is also a statement you could make for the whole of Reflektor, for it will most definitely send you into a reverie from which you may not return.