Arcade Fire’s fourth album is really something. This double album differs from their previous compositions, Neon Bible and The Suburbs. It departs from that rock opera style and even a little from the alternative/indie genre, to incorporate strong electronic and dance rock influences with a touch of psychedelia in some tracks. Therefore, it is difficult to classify the album in only one genre.
The first disc starts with a strong electronic feel in “Reflektor” and “We Exist”. The presence of keyboards, strong bass lines and distinctive drum patterns are the main cues of the electronic influence. It even reminds me of Daft Punk’s latest album, Random Access Memories. The next tracks (“Flashbulb Eyes” and “Here Comes the Night Time”) have a more ‘danceable’ feel. They even incorporate cumbia in the drum pattern and the use of marimbas. This half’s end takes a turn to hard and post-punk rock with the use of backbeat and more aggressive instruments. “Normal Person” and “You Already Know” even give a feeling of a live performance by presenting the band at the beginning. The latest is the first one in the album (but not the last) that incorporates some psychedelic elements.
The overall sound of this half is different, it doesn’t feature that strong ‘Wall of Sound’ characteristic from the previous discs, where their instruments seemed to use all the frequency spectrum. The tracks have a simpler sound, not as dense; but that didn’t keep them from maintaining their distinctive complexity, using a wide variety of instruments in different layers at the same time. Most of the tracks play with intensity as they develop, with contrasting verses, choruses and bridges throughout the whole album.
The second disc has a style more similar to the previous albums, starting with a slower tempo, a more complex sound, and predominant organ and strings. “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” and “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)” feature some evident surrealistic psychedelic elements. Despite being more like their earlier records, it doesn’t give up the new influences entirely. The electronic drums are still present and the keyboards are a predominant aspect in “Porno”. “Afterlife” and “Supersymmetry” are the perfect ending tracks, successfully combining the new elements with the old ones, giving the album cohesion and closure. Not even the psychedelia is left behind, being present in the rather long epilogue in the end.
This is a fairly unpredictable album, but it guides you through the whole process. It combines some experimentation (some really good experimentation) in the first disc, with the characteristic elements of Arcade Fire in the second one. And the final product is great. If you can get over the shocking first impression, and give it the time to lead you through the whole process it becomes a unique experience. Definitely worth hearing.