Arcade Fire introduces sharp style shift on latest single

Alexander McCall

Grammy nominees and acclaimed indie rockers Arcade Fire wouldn’t usually be pegged as mysterious types. 

There’s nothing atypical about a band teasing fans with promises of news, but after enigmatic artwork began to appear across the country and speculation of secret messages spread, Arcade Fire shrouded itself, leaving listeners to complete their own detective work.

“Reflektor,” an up-tempo dance track that assumes the purposefully misspelled title of the band’s upcoming album, is the result of those stealthy communications.

Clocking in at seven-and-a-half minutes, “Reflektor” opens appropriately, shaping choppy bell sounds that conjure visualizations of glass. It isn’t long before snare hits throw listeners headfirst into a funky groove completed by bongos and an accented bass line. The disco-infused track relies on soft-spoken synthesizers blended with saxophones and traditional Arcade Fire vocals, courtesy of husband and wife combo Win Butler and Regine Chassagne.

Understanding the root of the track’s distinct funk sound requires no guesswork. James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem brings his unmistakable style to the track as its producer, and David Bowie also sneaks his vocals into the mix. 

A jagged guitar riff replaces Arcade Fire’s once folky vibe. Devotees will find no violins or mandolins on “Reflektor,” which could indicate a larger shift in style for the band. Butler’s emotion and lyricism feel almost tragic, evoking ideas of being trapped and disconnected – perhaps a nod at our tech-forward society. Motifs of light and darkness and of mazes and mirrors provide little clarity, but preserve the nuanced, peculiar puzzle of the song. 

The song develops through its subtle shifts and pauses, and a final crescendo incorporates a heavier, more intense rhythm that culminates in an eerie, subdued exit. Though “Reflektor” vanishes just as strangely and gracefully as it appears, it ultimately comes as a welcomed change from the melancholic, yet honest expressions of 2010’s “The Suburbs.”

Rating: 8.9 out of 10