Thursday, October 24, 2013

Live Review - Arcade Fire - Reflektor

It's midnight, I'm sleep deprived, and this thing is an hour and a half long
Let's do it.

Arcade Fire is a big deal for you, eh?
Well, I'm Canadian. And I was 13 years old when Funeral came out. Do you know what that does to a person? I don't think I really felt like I had an identity until I heard that album.

Isn't your identity now something more like an obnoxious weeaboo that listens to almost exclusively rap?
Uhh... yes. And yes it is a little weird to be going from EVERYTHING IS PUSHA T mode to this. It might take me a bit to like, re-calibrate.

Are you one of those "Funeral only" genwunners or are you down with Neon Bible and The Suburbs?
A bit of both, I guess. The Suburbs and Neon Bible have some tracks I really really like but also have a few that I typically skip, while Funeral I can listen to all the way through over and over for what like almost a decade. The oft-forgotten self-titled EP from 2003 is also flawless. From this album I'm looking for a few indie "bangers" that I can have on loop and "sing" along with + some slower jams that make me feel emotions + no weird stuff that puts me off so much that I want to skip the track. Generally the only times I don't like Arcade Fire is when they get so into their bizarre suburban warfare pseudo-mythology that I cringe. Anyways let's get going with this big beast.

Arcade Fire - Reflektor
Live Review

0. "Hidden Track"
Okay I'm maybe misunderstanding something here... I guess this is one of those "before the first song" gimmicks. We're getting some spacey noises and backwards strings. Is this spoilers... should I actually have heard this at the end? I kinda want to turn up my headphones to hear this over my typing... seems dangerous... I like these vocals here, classic Canadian indie rock "oooaaaaahhhhs". Now we're getting a really sleek sort of string sound, really a-tunal, a-melodic... but something is emerging out of it. This is all so quiet... it could deafen me at any second the way I've turnt up lol. I like the synching of forward strings with what I think is a backwards sample. Oooh now at 2:40 something strange is happening, wow such backmasking. There were all sorts of prerelease things, ARGs or something, maybe this... uh... I dunno. Anyways I haven't heard a second of this album yet. I love this electric guitar. This whole song has the structure of an early Faust song. Neat. Now it's almost like a beat. I wonder if this is a sort of overture... We're just kinda vibing along at the 4 minute mark, yeah, yeah. I feel like anticon rappers could start rapping and I would be okay. Now a sort of funky bridge coming in... I really have no idea where this song, if it is a song, is going. I mean this is fun and interesting but not really what I signed up for... Really cool though. I really like the sort of "chopped and screwed" strings that are going up and down on that one sample... And now we get some of those nauseating alien bee sorta sounds... dunno how else to describe them. Such backwards. I feel like making a bunch of "sounds like X but Y" statements but they are also just... useless, empty. I don't know how to grade something like this, lol, but I mean my whole track by track grading system is pretty silly to begin with. Wow now at 7:47 this sounds like AnCo sounds but with more romance in the strings... did that statement mean anything to anyone ever. Really cool though oh wow. I was not expecting to vibe out to something like this, lol. Sounds like Thom Yorke sounds but with less Thom Yorke's voice. This is getting me really pumped for the album proper. I guess that's the idea? Cool ending, pretty spooky. S

1. "Reflektor"
Title track, lead single, everyone else has heard it and loved it, here we go. Wow. This is like... so dancy. Actually I think I remember reading something like "New Arcade Fire is Dark and Dancy" so okay there we go. This is smooth though. His vocals are really smooth. This almost sounds like a Daft Punk song, omg lol how. Ooooh sick French. "If this is heaven, I don't know what it's for", this sounds like it fell out of some impossible time. "I thought I found the connector/But it's just a reflector" oh okay now I understand a Seinfeld2000 tweet lol. This is awesome. There's just so much stuff going on but it's so so slick, so well produced. I love love love this horn. I love love this chorus. I feel like singing along ALREADY, how is that possible? I'm not sure who the female vocalist is... I feel like I ought to remember... but damn I'm in love. AND WHAT'S THIS SYNTH SCRAPE SORTA NOISES? Are you for real right now? I love this effect... the word reflector being "reflected" all around me. And this song isn't even half over oh my god. Wow yes this escalation is so good, "I see you on the other side". Wow the vocals are so breathy and immediate in my ear I felt like ASMR sorta lol. I like this breakdown here around 3:40... "Down down down down"... wow this is really toeing the cheesy line but damn if they don't pull it off. Sounds like !!! or James Murphy if they were way more innocent and French. God damn these horns and these vocal effects wow wow. I feel like drumming on my legs and stuff, this is dancy as hell. Oh shit this piano wowwwwwww, I love when there's a really stark and minimal instrument to contrast all the really produced full ones. Cuts right through. I mean holy shit. This song is really doing it for me. One of those "I want to just listen to this many more times and forget the rest of the album" deals... They have one violin in the back that's just climbing the scale, and this crazy disco beat, and he's going crazy with this "see you on the other side", and the drums, wow, yes, very good, tybg, great song. Insane. ***

2. "We Exist"
Right back into that groove! Cool wow. I saw some comment that was like "I've been dancing for an hour" re: the album being released and I was like ??? but now I understand. Okay this is more measured... more sane. Feels more like a traditional Arcade Fire song + this sort of new beat-driven groovy structure. I'm not sure what they're talking about. This is quite exciting dynamic music though wow. I love that bass line, such a bass focus... that's probably the really big change. Before they had an upright one lol. Win's voice is solid as a rock man. The beat sorta thing coming in at 1:50ish is totally James Murphy in the best possible way. This album is all songs like LCD Soundsystem's "All I Want", that's so sick. Oh my god this part at like 2:20 is unbelievable. I'm making one of those like "disgusted disbelief" faces. Things are getting complex, lots of elements, really nice build up into it. Wooooooowwwwwwwwww I love that transition at 3:30. I really feel like I haven't heard many songs like this before. I'm getting a strange religious nihilism vibe from the lyrics... intriguing. We're building up into something here. I'm feeling like this is a jam. We exist. We exist. Etc. I guess more existentialism than nihilism... Mishmash of voices, weird samples, Win goes into a solid baritone... very cool, very good. I'm so excited for this album, that first track wasn't a fluke lol. *

3. "Flashbulb Eyes"
Woah... hmm... weird noisey intro and they're actually bring along all that noise into the song. I can't understand a word he's saying... "What does the camera really do? Take your soul? All along?" Win pls take off tinfoil hat. Wow I love love love that xylophone, I love that tone especially in the baritone register. Oh "What if the camera really do take your soul all along?", hmmm, I sort of like this aesthetic/tone... Not quite corny for me yet, so that's good. This is a really cool... island rhythms sort of jam... it has elements of AnCo and Tom Waits??? Or am I just thinking of things randomly? The brass and such... The xylophone... it's pretty sweet at any rate. I love the sounds at the end here... yeah see it's all like... island or something... I dunno. S+

4. "Here Comes the Night Time"
Good transition then HOLY SHIT! This is like... really intense. HAha wow I love the way that slowed down into a solid solid island groove. This is gonna be the jam! Okay I dunno if I'm liking these lyrics... What sort of world does Win live in? Has he literally never had working electricity? I like the way the guitar stuff sorta bends out of tune. I do sorta like the title drop in this... it has really nice cadence. AND OH MAN, STEEL DRUM JAMS?? For real right now? And then we get into a darker funkier groove... wow they must have so much fun making this, you can just hear. Periods of light and dark on this song... I'm reminded of the "Hotel Delphino" level in Super Mario Sunshine, lol. "When they hear the beat coming from the street they lock the door"... to heaven... I have no idea what's going on. I love that piano chord Bum-bum-bum! "A thousand horses running wild and a city on fire"... ummm... I can forgive this. Just because this song is so dang FUN! It's just a vibing along the beach having a good time sorta song, right? But it's also sorta spooky. I like that. Wow they're doing WOW OKAY. The transition at 4:30ish. DAMN. YES. It's like back to how it was at the intro... okay not even gonna bother with this mess about preachers... what.. lol. BUT THIS IS SICK. Such kinetic energy! And that bass!! And now it's getting all stop/start, which makes it even more kinetic-seeming, makes it seem like it has inertia... and lol it slows back down for the outro. And of course there's an acoustic guitar strumming along... just trying to ignore the lyrics sorry just not my cup of tea. I love that bitcrushed sorta drum sound. Cool. Great. *

5. "Normal Person"
Live sorta jam intro... sounds like a dad rock band. What the heck is this... lol. "Is there anything as strange as a normal person"... yes. It is Win Butler. This is like their take on a sorta dad rock sorta jam, okay, I "dig" it. Wow yes, the way this opened up is really nice. They like... approached this from a new angle, you know? I'm not sure if the lyrics are anything I care about... I really love that screetching electric guitar. This is so rock song. This could be the song I get really hype when I hear on the rock radio stations for the next year. That would be great. "When they get excited they try to hide it/Look at those normals go"... =\ Sure. "If that's what's normal now, I don't want to know"... WOW I LOVE THE FEMALE VOCAL HARMONIES around 3:20, VERY WELL DONE. I feel like the only hint that Arcade Fire can make a song like this was back in the second half of "Crown of Love" on Funeral... S

6. "You Already Know"
Another weird sorta live opening. Alright whatever, I've tolerated more intrusive stuff. This is a fun jangly sorta tune. Really bouncy, probably the most twee sort of sound I've heard on this album yet. See, this is still sorta beat based but now there isn't also the really driving bass line... the driving melodies have the same sort of disconnect as the beats. And it's got that off-beat swing sort of thing. This is fun and all but... actually this is more what I was expecting and not the crazy funky groovy stuff... but now I was wanting that. Ooh I like how it's sorta opening up here around the 1:50 mark... making stuff a bit fuller. Echoes and stuff... Sounds kinda like a Strokes song maybe, not sure. Lyrics just seem to be... you already know. "Please stop wondering why you feel so sad, you already know"... hmm... getting sorta spacey with the vocals near the end here, pretty neat. Crowd outro too... hmm... A+

7. "Joan of Arc"
Final track of disc one! Wow... this is like a garage rock sorta jam. And then nope flip it up! Is this... just a concept song about Joan of Arc/some person Win feels is like Joan of Arc? I kinda wish this was all in French so I didn't understand it lol. I dunno man I just can't get into shouting "Joan of Arc!", like, maybe this is me just being lame/2cool or whatever but... anyways though I do like this song, it's jamming along really nicely. Again it seems to be the more jaunty disjointed beats instead of the really funky stuff we heard early... I think it really depends on what sort of bass line/how loud it is/how loud is the acoustic guitar... Kinda getting more into this shouting Joan of Arc thing. Wow yes I love this French. I love the sound of Quebecois French, I feel like this might not be a common opinion. "And if you shoot you better hit your mark/Joan of Arc!"... =/ "Joan, it's true, I only want to [something] you"... oh "know" you... hmm. He has a sort of Jeff Mangum/Anne Frank sorta thing... martyr love. Unhealthy imo but lol that's coming from me. Anyways this ending is pretty cool, very sonically interesting... and then silence. Chilling. Nice. Okay. A+

8. "Here Comes the Night Time II"
Alright disc 2... fresh start... with COMPUTER BLEEPBOOPS? Does Quebec even have computers? And then they dragged out the double bass anyways... oooh... This is more their cathedral sound. Yes yes. This is what I actually initially wanted. Heavy organ chords... now synth-flavored... mmm... "Here comes the night again", this is really cool, feels like the darker side of the night now... And mmmmmmm those strings, those perfect Arcade Fire strings. And wow yes this drone sort of feel... "Here comes the night time, comin' on slow/Here comes the night time, I know that you know", I actually like a lot of these lines!! Haha wowww I didn't see that coming at 2:10ish. That little mixup. I really like this. A full and sacred sound full of anticipation. *

9. "Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)"
Eurydice and Orpheus... I remember these guys... what did they do again? Can't recall. This is a pretty sick song so far though... I love those really fast drums and the plotting sounds... Yes yes, the twangy guitar making an entrance with the whispery strings... it's that sort of contrast that makes this genre so interesting. Lots of instruments "peeking in" on this song, I like it. Really hoping it sorta "blows up" near the end, as they did so well on the first few songs. Ahhh yes, I think here it comes... blown out wonderland... Really like this feeling, really strung out with the fast drums still underneath. And the strings are like made of ice. It's a very... big and diverse "sound scape"... now I'm just embarrassing myself. Lol I love those "cyber-drums" around 3:00. And everything switches up, I like the feeling when the first half is sorta chaotic and then the second stuff has many of the same elements but "sorted" and "unified". "You were born in a little sound/before the awful sound started coming down"... and then there's all sorts of grating noises coming down... wow this is some climbing up the walls stuff, yes, that was awesome, all cleared away by those solid drum hits around 4:10. Really rollercoaster sort of song. They just keep busting out more cool stuff. Lots of cool contrasting elements. Feels more like a Neon Bible-era song, but more lively... neat how they're refining their styles... wow this ending is going crazy, making me feel claustrophobic. And then neat silence. S-

10. "It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)"
Okay we are like... constructing something more dancy this time. What makes this one dancy and the last one less so? Not sure. Woah and then this guitar like, rampaging through. Very cool riff. "Hey! What's the ish!"? Is that what they said? Like, what's the issue? Hmm. I really like this style of vocals, I love how this is "set up" right now, really feels in the school of James Murphy which is a very good school. It's like a "freedom to jam in any direction" sort of setup. "Just wait until it's over" oho but if you look at the song title... watch out buddy. And around 2:50 we get the breakdown bridge sort of thing, not too surprising, but well done. I love his "tender" vocal sorts... and I like these lyrics, basically... I like how we snapped right back to full jam, and I love love love this trumpet. I like these descending vocal patterns... lots of pretty slick stuff going on here. Oooh, this sort of breakdown I didn't really expect. Is it the same as the previous one? It doesn't seem like it... again though cool.. "I told you we'd wake you up/When it was over", I think that line is pretty haunting. I love the muted half-drum hits in the background, this is a really cool feel on the quiet bits... and I can feel the tension for it to go back to the jammy mode right before the end. I like the slight arhythmic qualities to some elements. Oh wow it's like, going out like this I guess. I love the stereo effects on the vocals in the end. Sweet. S+

11. "Porno"
Wow haha oh man this does feel sort of... lewd. The snaps and vocal tut sorta things... in the "darkness", and this really cheesy synth line... lol. I really like the nodules on this synth thing... Dunno how to describe it. This is a really strange track, really, it's like, all these strange elements that feel very incomplete and spaced out, but in combination the whole track feels very full and solid. Weird effect. I like these little piano sounds, and the echoes, and now there's this neat string thing going every which way. Wow they just went full robo-crush on his voice for one line, I love that lol. "When I reach for you/You say you're over it"... aww, this is probably a really sad song, isn't it? It's about loneliness and such. Win's voice is pretty heartbreaking. Guitar coming in here, solid little riff... Kinda giving strength to Win, now there's a new layer of energy. Still got those snaps and cymbal hits there, I like these whiny synth stuff. So dancy, so vibey. "On and on/and on we go/I just have to know"... and I can't figure out what this last line is, what is he saying? Did he just say "love is real/like a good disease"? I must be getting sleep deprived. Lol. I need to look up the lyrics to these before I listen again. At the same time I don't want to 'cause I've been mixed on the ones I do make out. A+

12. "Afterlife"
This is a pretty funtimes sort of song for the name... big stretch from "My Body is a Cage" or even Talking Heads' "Heaven"... I like the sounds here, I like the really peppy drum beat. Feels like a very focused track. I like the way they really amp up the noisiness of sections really quickly. These lyrics... um... geez, I don't even know. Is this like, a concept album? 'Cause we went from... she's leaving him, or something, and now she's dead? Or wait maybe he's still trying to get back together "Can we scream and shout/till we work it out". I like the vocal dynamics here between the two of them. "And you said/Ohhohhohhhh" etc, I like that sort of thing. And I love how the guitar is building up here... so noisy and rugged. And wow there's one of those space bee synths panned far left, that sort of thing is a real sonic treat, as is the way they full stuff out with reverb on the outro... Such energy on this track. "It's just an afterlife!"... Those breathing effects were cool too, very intense. S

13. "Supersymmetry"
Okay this is it, the big finale. I don't know what, if anything, the mathematical definition of supersymmetry is... "I know you're living/In my mind/It's not the same/As being alive/Supersymmetry"... okay. That's actually really good. Maybe. Or maybe I'm just getting too tired. This beast is 11 minutes long and they're really making it tense... there's a lot of stuff I feel under the surface of this very delicate sort of intro. "I want to feel the seasons passing/Feel the spring/supersymmetry"... these are legitimately provoking. I should think more about the themes of the album before dismissing anything. This whole track is telling some sort of story, I think... and maybe the whole album is too. Ahh, the mirroring of "symmetry", like "reflector", cool, cute... I'm feeling a transition coming up soon... mmm... yeah, the way that drum came in was pretty fine, like I shook my head and was like "dat drum". This is a nice slow burning jam, I keep feeling like it will "burst" LCD Soundsystem-style... but I guess they had tracks that were slow burners too. At any rate I love this synth line + drum kit + violin combo, like, a whole whole lot. Really hypnotizing. I'd be okay with 7 minutes of this. Really swirling feeling from these multiple asynch synth lines... and the bongos I didn't even hear those lol. Cool... just the synth line in the spotlight... I really hope this isn't one of those "much silence" bonus tracks... only "Motion Picture Soundtrack" can get away with that shit pls. Uh oh. Looks like it might be. NOPE NOPE REVVING BACK UP... Ahh, into the sounds of the bonus track, the reverse... I guess maybe that shoulda came last... I'm happy with how I did it though, it was a fine order. I needed to get "warmed up" to experience how INSANELY GREAT the title track was. I guess this is how the end of the album loops into the beginning, very clever. I think we're encouraged to... mirror the two discs, maybe... find some connections.. I'm plenty intrigued. I really like one of the synth sounds in the "background" there, the "carnival" sort of one that is going really fast, it almost remind me of mum. And the horn sorta riffing here, that's neat. Geez I was kinda hoping this would be some crazy 11 minute long jam that just got more crazy, like the title track... damn I loved that song, gonna listen to it again right after this. The way that elaborate synth in the back keeps repeating almost "stubbornly", it feels like... someone replaying a game they keep losing. It is a very interesting aesthetic to me. Now the foreground elements have faded out... Ah, the "awful noise" sort of thing is descending... this really feels more like GY!BE than Arcade Fire, lol. This sort of "endlessly descending drone"... I know this trick. Works well... Wow... okay... that was it... that was the album. I'm pretty happy. S

Not quite what I expected!
There are songs here that I would happily make my "indie club anthem"... as soon as I find an "indie club". They had a reeeally wide aesthetic range, which is pretty amazing for Arcade Fire, which usually situates itself in a neighbourhood of sorts, aesthetic wise, and kinda like wanders around from there. This time we basically got into a flight to Hawaii.

Lyrically, I still have beef. Back on Funeral they had all these really charming little images. They'd be half really relatable and half fantastical, but they we never like... crazy. Or maybe they were... I guess "Neighbourhood 3 (Power Out)" is pretty out there. My point is I guess they were praised for these little romantic images, and they really kicked them up to eleven on Neon Bible. And that was like, pretty interesting, if a little cringy at times. Then there was The Suburbs, I really do love that album, but I can't stand almost all of the lyrics. At best they were just sort of nondescript enough for me to love belting them out (the title track), but sometimes man... he just got like, really crazy. Maybe it's not as bad as I remember... Anyways this album wasn't as bad. Sometimes I really didn't like the lyrics but maybe there's some thematic context in which they'll be okay. It seems like there's a lot of imagery of heaven/hell, discussion of that, that's like... okay... but it seems like they almost have some weird like, mythic ideology about heaven and hell... I don't really care about that ish.

I feel like most of the tracks I didn't like so much I didn't like mainly because I felt they sort of "dragged". When you structure songs around a "groove", that is, a solid bass/drum combo and then some melodies and vocal patterns that sort of "explore" from there... when you have that structure, you have to keep a certain level of energy. If you can keep it, the song just won't stop being entertaining and exciting and you can do whatever you want. But if you lose that focus, if you take a little too long on the wrong thing, it just... sorta... drags. And sometimes I felt like they were bringing in too many of the "traditional" indie elements, and that they were sorta out of place now.

These are quibbles, though. I'll probably come to like those tracks more and more as I learn to anticipate parts of them and such. And some tracks already stand out like oh my god the title track, that is simply not something I felt this band, or really any band, could make. That's like a track of the year contender in my book. I sort of resent everyone who listened to the single and said things like "this is good" when really they had a duty to kick down my door and force me to listen to it.

So yeah, this album is solid as hell. The band is trying new things... not just new to them, but new to music, if I may be so bold. There's a whole lot of stuff here, a lot of really eclectic influences. It made me think of everything from The Avalanches to Tom Waits... And everything was SO WELL produced! Way way back in the day Arcade Fire was the first band that made me see that sometimes, with "quality", sometimes bad was good. It made me see the aesthetic appeal of lo-fi amateurish sort of sounds... well, if I had grown up with this album instead, which has I swear like a Kanye West feel of just having so so much work making it perfect, who knows how I would change, like, taste-wise. At the same time, though, it still sounds very much like them. Their vocal and instrumental tones, when they overlap with their old stuff at all, has that classic Arcade Fire sound. So I love that too.

Basically I love everything.

I'm predicting this will get like a 9.2 from p4k and place in the top 5 of the best of 2013 list... won't beat Yeezus though.

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