Talking Points: Arcade Fire’s Reflektor

There are a few key ingredients that go into making a great album. First of all, there needs to be something fresh and groundbreaking about the sound. Think about the first time you heard Daft Punk’s Homework . It was like nothing you’d ever heard before and it stuck. The second ingredient to a great album is brilliant marketing and self-branding. Look at what Ziggy Stardust’s brief existence did for David Bowie’s career. The final thing that goes into making a great album is a good story on how those songs came to fruition. Look at the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St. The mythology that surrounds the making of Exile probably has a lot to do with the Exile’s legacy as being one of the Stones’ best albums ever made. It appears that all of Mic and Keef’s drunken brawls, torrid affairs and drug-induced antics in the South of France really paid off. 

Arcade Fire’s new album Reflektor was released on October 29th and it is already receiving a standing ovation from many fans and critics. Pitchfork has already given it a 9.2 rating and critics are quickly comparing Reflektor to other game-changing albums like OK Computer and Achtung, Baby, both of which marked a turning point in artistic direction for household names like Radiohead and U2. However, the big question that everyone seems to be asking is, “What was the inspiration for this album?” This seems like a debate that could go on for years. Is it Rara? Disco? LCD Soundsystem? Vampire Weekend? or the Talking Heads? 

If you scan the Internet this week you’ll be overwhelmed with a tidal wave of reviews of Reflektor. To save you hours of reading, we’ve summarized a few interesting points you should know about an album that is sure to go down in the history books: 

1.  James Murphy.
Perhaps the coolest and absolutely the most unassuming man in today’s music scene, Murphy is responsible for founding the ultra hip though sadly retired group LCD Soundsystem. Murphy is also the genius behind DFA Records and as he currently tours his DJ sets, we salute him for embracing the forgotten 70s classics like Donna Summers. Respect.

Murphy was one of several producers on Reflektor and you can’t help but feel his presence. As you listen to the album, you’ll notice that AF has embraced more upbeat, dancey tempos and a disco element that you’d see in Murphy’s current DJ set.

2. Guerilla Marketing.
Several months before the release of the album, a mysterious logo that read ‘Reflektor’ started to appear in the form of street art all around the world. A few weeks later, the band confirmed the imagery was associated with their new album. Win Butler went on to explain the imagery was inspired by Haitian Veve drawings.  So art school.

3. Reinvention.
Critics have been calling this album a major turning point in AF’s career (stylistically speaking), and like many other artists and bands before AF (See Ziggy Stardust), critics see AF’s assumed identity as the ‘reflectors’ as being an effort to reinvent the band’s persona.

4. Haiti.
The birthplace of Regine Chassagene (Butler’s better half) played a huge part in the making of Reflektor. The group recorded in an obscure castle outside of Port-au-Prince called the ‘Trident’, which was furnished with only a few beds and musical instruments during the band’s occupancy. You can also hear the local sounds of Haitian Rara music make it’s way into several of the new tracks. Furthermore, songs like “Here Comes the Night Time” are said to be inspired by Butler watching locals hurrying home before dark, as many places in Haiti are still without electricity.

5. Black Orpheus.
Marcel Camus’ 1959 film is one of Butler’s favourite movies. The story takes place in the favelas of Rio di Janeiro during Carnivale. Black Orpheus retells the classic Greek myth of Orpheus, the great musician who was unable to save his lover Eurydice due to his fatal human flaws. For those of you who love music trivia, you should check out the cover art of the Reflektor album, which depicts Rodin’s classic sculpture of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Now that we’ve imparted all of our musical knowledge, you’re probably wondering where you can find this monumental new album (a must-have for the collection). Here are a few sweet shops in town (Calgary) that you should know about:

Sloth Records: The cool little shop that sits above Clive Burger on 17th Avenue; Sloth has a great collection and is the go-to place for concert tickets. This is your shop for indie music. The staff here really knows their stuff. 1508 4th St. SW (403-265-6585).

Meloydia: A short hike up 17th can be very rewarding. These music aficionados have a little bit of everything; you can find new, used and vintage here. 2523A 17 Ave SW (403-246-1706).

Hot Wax: This Kensington vinyl shop has been around for over three decades no. Besides having new albums, Hot Wax also carries thousands of those harder-to-find classics to supplement the collection. 114 10th Street NW (403-283-0055).