After winning the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 2010, the stakes were high for Arcade Fire to put out another award-winning and critically acclaimed record. Three years later, the band is back with “Reflektor,” an album that features the group’s large baroque sound but adds elements of dance and Caribbean music.
The album opens with “Hidden Track,” a 10-minute piece of failed experimental music that plays snippets of the album in reverse, but redeems itself with the next track, “Reflektor.” This incredibly catchy song brings in elements of disco that perfectly complement Arcade Fire’s usual style, while “Flashbulb Eyes” and “Here Comes the Night Time” sound more like an imitation of upbeat Brazilian music than an interpretation. “Normal Person” and “You Already Know” are great, driving rock songs but begin and end with fake applause — a cheap way to transition from track to track.
The dance influence on the album’s second half works better, but “Porno” and “Afterlife,” two synth-pop songs done Arcade Fire–style, don’t have enough progression to justify their six-minute length. The final track, “Supersymmetry,” works as a gentle way to close the album, but sounds like it was mixed at a lower volume than everything preceding it. Rather than joining different elements of the songs and tying the album together as a closing song should, this effect makes the track sound out of place. Instead of leaving things there, Arcade Fire tacks on another five minutes of the failed experiment that opened the album.
Despite being bloated at 85 minutes, “Reflektor” is, for the most part, an enjoyable rock album. But Arcade Fire seems to be trying too hard to keep its reputation by producing over-extended arena rock songs, making what could be a great album a somewhat disappointing project.